The welcome center in Grand Bay has officially opened.
This 17,000 square foot facility replaces a welcome center originally built in the 1970’s that was plagued with a leaky roof, plumbing issues, and damage from years of hurricanes. The new facility is considered a great improvement over the old building.
“And as they come in, it’s the busiest one in the state, so it really should be the most beautiful,” says Governor Robert Bentley.
It has state of the art design, with sculpted brick of marine wildlife making the building a real work of art. It also has wifi throughout, a security station, lighting upgrades, and tv monitors showcasing attractions around the state. But it doesn’t just sit there and look pretty.
“The great thing about this also, this will withstand a category five hurricane and so it will be a center so that people can come if there’s any natural disasters in this area so it serves a dual purpose,” adds Bentley.
It’ll also serve as a staging area for emergency vehicles.
Everyone here today welcomed this $17.4 million project with open arms. Meanwhile, there’s another project on the other side of the state that isn’t getting quite as warm of a welcome.
The Gulf State Park Conference Center is drawing criticism from folks like State Auditor Jim Zeigler.
“Governor Bentley is simply spending the BP money on pet projects of his choosing,” says Zeigler.
Bentley says he doesn’t understand how anyone could be against it.
“I mean here is a beautiful facility that we’re going to be able to build without taxpayer’s money, it’s going to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars into the state, we’re going to have conventions in Alabama, not Florida.”
He also says money generated by Gulf State Park will go to refurbish every state park in Alabama.
$85 million has been set aside for the Gulf State project. $58 million will go toward the lodge and meeting facility, and $27 million will go to a series of environmental improvements throughout the park.
90 percent of the cost for the new welcome center was paid for by federal money.