The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

21 hours ago

Alabama leads effort to reduce youth sports injuries

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

A group of athletes, doctors and public health professionals from Alabama are leading a national effort to reduce sports injuries among youths.

That group, called the CoachSafely Foundation, hosted a panel discussion Friday at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham to discuss better ways to train youth coaches how to prevent and recognize sports injuries such as concussions, heat-related illnesses and overuse injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the rise of concussions in youth sports an epidemic, which was echoed by Orthopedic Surgeon & Sports Medicine Specialist Dr. James Andrews.

“There’s been a tenfold increase since the year 2000 in injuries in youth sports, and these are not just minor injuries — these are what we call adult sports injuries that used to only occur in college and professional athletes,” Andrews said.

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Andrews referenced a 2014 report conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide, which said:

  • 1.24 million children were seen in emergency rooms for sports injuries in 2013
  • 90 percent of athletes said they have been injured while playing a sport
  • 54 percent said they had played injured
  • Less than 50 percent of coaches said they have received certification on how to prevent and recognize sports injuries.

Margaret White, Public Relations director at Alabama Power, is one of those who played injured in high school and was later treated by Andrews. She told her story to the group Friday because she wants to see a bigger support system for youth athletes.

“It’s not just engaged parents, but it’s knowledgeable coaches, doctors, community leaders — certainly not the desires of stubborn, short-sighted young athletes,” White said.

Drew Ferguson, president of the CoachSafely Foundation and a director at Children’s of Alabama, said the group is committed to carrying this message nationally.

“We’ve got the nation’s attention by some of the people who are here today,” Ferguson said. “This foundation is going to give us a tremendous opportunity to create a standard of care both here in Alabama and throughout the country.”

Wayne Moss, executive director of the National Council of Youth Sports, said he was “blown away” when he first learned about the work of the CoachSafely Foundation.

“I don’t think the people outside of these doors really know what’s going on,” Moss said. “I don’t think they get something miraculous has happened here. There will be a day that we look back and see that youth safety started in Alabama.”

Other panelists echoed the importance of the work.

“When I got the call about CoachSafely, it’s a no-brainer,” said Izell Reese, executive director of NFL Flag Football. “Youth safety in youth sports is just as important as a background check.”

“We want to be a part of this because these kids are what will feed into our middle schools and high schools,” said Alvin Briggs, associate executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association. “If they’re not taught right, then what do we have when they get to our programs?”

“We as Park and Rec professionals want to lead and we want to be difference makers as we move forward,” said Natalie Norman, executive director of the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association.

One panel participant who can speak from a position of success is Jimmy Robinson, the University of Alabama football team doctor.

“I live at the other extreme of what we’re trying to get going here: I live in the utopia,” Robinson said. “I’ve got all these resources around me and the ability to help talk care of our athletes at the highest level. At the coach safely level, at the youth sports level, it’s just the opposite, and that’s one thing we need to do. Preparedness and prevention is the key.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 days ago

World’s largest collection of Ford Mustangs in Alabama

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Bob Powell and his family love Ford Mustangs.

“I’ve always been a car enthusiast and got attached to Ford Mustangs several years ago. Our collection goes back over 30 years.”

Their love for this iconic vehicle got more serious four years ago when he and his sons decided to open a museum.

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“We want to preserve Mustangs. We don’t want them to go to the junkyard.”

Mustang Museum of America preserves iconic history from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

So he and his family started a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving, educating and celebrating the life of the Mustang. The result of their hard work is the Mustang Museum of America, a more than 30,000-square-foot building in Odenville currently housing 99 Ford Mustangs produced over five decades.

“We want to preserve the history and by walking through the museum you can follow from the first year production all the way through 2015, see how they changed.”

Since opening in March 2019, Powell says the museum has had visitors from Germany, France, Mexico and Australia.

“They were all very impressed,” Powell said. “There are some other museums around that have Mustangs in them, but to have 99 Mustangs under one roof is unique.”

To learn more about the Mustang Museum of America, including hours of operation and admission prices, visit the website at mustangmuseumofamerica.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 week ago

Nick Saban talks Nick’s kids, retirement odds, stadium renovations and more

Nick Saban speaks to the media at the Nick's Kids Golf Tournament June 6. (Dennis Washington / Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama football coach Nick Saban laughed off retirement plans, discussed the amateurism of college sports and talked about the renovation plans of Bryant-Denny Stadium Thursday.

Saban spoke to reporters at the 13th Annual Nick’s Kids Golf Tournament at Birmingham’s Old Overton Club.

“We’re really excited about being here,” Saban said. “The Nick’s Kids (Foundation) is all about my dad’s legacy of trying to give back to young people and help them to have an opportunity to be successful in life and also to honor the people who help the young people. We’ve had a lot of great supporters throughout the years. We certainly appreciate their support and what they’ve done to help us be able to help others. I don’t get to see these folks that often, so this is a day that we look forward to. I actually stand on one hole and play one hole with everybody, so I get to renew some of those acquaintances. Their relationship is valued by Miss Terry and I both.”

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Saban says the foundation has given out well over $8 million since he and his wife, Terry, arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007.

“I raise it, and she spends it,” Saban said.

Saban was on the golf course despite having had hip surgery in April. He admitted doctors still won’t allow him to swing his driver or 3-wood, but he can use anything from a 5-iron up. He said he can do the things he needs to without a great risk of injuring his hip.

“I think it will still take a few weeks of strengthening to get back to normal,” he said.

Saban said surgery recovery has made it clear that he is not ready to stop working, which is why he chuckles at those who are literally betting on his retirement date (the over-under is apparently 5.5 years).

“That’s the first I’ve heard of that one, but it’s amusing,” he said. “After the six hours I spent at home in the chair after I got home from the hospital, I was outside walking around in the yard, and I think Miss Terry was ready to call the police on me if I didn’t get back in the house, so that’s not something that I enjoy and that’s not something I really want to do anytime soon. I just enjoy being part of the team, the relationships – to have Julio Jones come back the first two days I was doing my rehab on my hip, he was there with me doing it. Tua came in yesterday while I was doing rehab and gave me a medical examination, so some of these things are really special, so no time soon. I don’t know what Vegas knows that I don’t know.”

(Dennis Washington / Alabama NewsCenter)

Saban also talked about what proposed stadium renovations reveal about the football program at Alabama.

“I think it speaks volumes to a commitment to a standard of excellence that the University, the athletic department has to continue to be our best,” he said. “If you stand pat and everybody else is chasing you and what you do, they’re eventually going to catch you. To be aggressive in trying to make improvements is really important.”

(Courtesy Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Student-powered produce stand opens at Birmingham’s Woodlawn High School

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

People living in east Birmingham now have a new place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables: their nearby high school.

The Farm Stand opened Thursday afternoon at Woodlawn High School. Operated by students, the Farm Stand gives neighbors a place to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables grown at the school in conjunction with the city’s Jones Valley Teaching Farm program. Amanda Storey, executive director of the Jones Valley Teaching Farm, says the Farm Stand was made possible through a grant from Gov. Kay Ivey as part of the Alabama Healthy Food Financing Act.

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“It gives our students a chance to connect with our neighbors and also be able to provide a service to their neighborhood,” Storey said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

The Farm Stand is in a part of Birmingham the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls a “food desert,” which is an area without easy access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. Josh Carpenter, director of Economic Development for the city of Birmingham, says the Farm Stand solves that problem and helps students.

“Woodlawn is a great proof-point of what is possible when we really dedicate resources and time to this type of engagement,” Carpenter said. “Some of these students are thinking not just about how to grow vegetables, but then, ‘What does the irrigation system look like?’ and they’re conceptualizing their own careers as plumbers and electricians. That type of development comes foundationally through these types of experiential work-based learning, so they’ve really laid the groundwork for apprenticeships in the city.”

The Jones Valley Teaching Farm operates seven farms throughout Birmingham, engaging more than 4,500 students from pre-K through high school in a hands-on, food-based education model. Storey says the program helps students grow life skills.

“One of the biggest pieces that you learn when running a farm is that seeds take a long time to grow,” Storey said. “We’re all so used to instant gratification, the process of growing food is something that really instills leadership and patience and all of these life skills that are so important for young people. Being able to be front and center in leading a project, when you’re in high school, I think is so important for student growth and for life growth.”

The Farm Stand is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:00-5:30 p.m. For more information, visit the Jones Valley Teaching Farm online at jvtf.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama Newscenter)

1 month ago

Construction begins on new fan garage experience at Talladega Superspeedway

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Construction of a new infield garage and VIP fan experience began Monday as Talladega Superspeedway resumed its $50 million Transformation renovation project.

Legendary NASCAR driver Bobby Allison helped begin demolition of the track’s “Victory Lane” Monday morning, an area that will be moved and upgraded this summer into a new area called the “Talladega Garage Experience.”

“I’ve been back through here under good circumstances a few times,” Allison told reporters. “To come back here and do these upgrades at one of the greatest racetracks in the world, it’s pretty special to me.”

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When completed, fans inside the Talladega Garage Experience will have:

“Locker room” access to NASCAR’s top 22 drivers and crews inside a new infield garage bay.

An Open Air Social Club featuring a bar, a large 41-foot diagonal video screen, lounge chairs and tables.

A Celebration Plaza featuring victory lane.

A Watch Zone featuring a 40-by-80-foot video board, a Kids Zone, a beer garden and plenty of seating.

Free WiFi.

Enhanced concession stands, restroom complexes and guest services.

The Talladega Garage Experience is the second and final phase of the track’s Transformation project, celebrating the track’s 50th anniversary. A new Finish Line Premium RV area, infield shower trailers and a new, oversized two-lane vehicle tunnel were built in the first phase, which was completed last week.

Admissions to the VIP fan experience for the fall race are on sale. Advance-priced admissions are $89 for adults for Sunday, Oct. 13, in the Talladega Garage Experience. There are also special advance-priced offers for the Talladega Garage Experience for children 12 and younger ($39 for Sunday), military members and first responders ($60 for Sunday). Full weekend options are available as well. Each Talladega Garage Experience pass must accompany a grandstand or infield admission ticket for that day’s on-track event.

For more information on the Transformation project or access to the Talladega Garage Experience, visit talladegasuperspeedway.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama Newscenter)

1 month ago

Alabama’s Literary Capital honors authors with new sculpture trail

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

A new collection of bronze sculptures in downtown Monroeville celebrates some of our country’s most famous writers whose roots originate in this historical area of southwest Alabama.

The Literary Capital Sculpture Trail unveiled Friday afternoon features 14 bronze sculptures created by University of Alabama sculpture students that are on display within a short walk of each other around the Monroe County Courthouse Museum.

“We have a legacy here and we want people to know what that is,” said Anne Marie Bryan, executive director of Monroeville Main Street. “These sculptures honor the 10 authors who made Monroeville and Monroe County Alabama’s Literary Capital.”

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The trail honors 10 writers from Monroeville: Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Cynthia Tucker, Mark Childress, Marva Collins, Rheta Grimsley-Johnson, Riley Kelly, Mike Stewart, William Barret Travis and Hank Williams. Of those 10, three won Pulitzer Prizes: Harper Lee, Cynthia Tucker and Hank Williams. Bryan said the exhibit was created to provide arts and culture for the community, something of interest for tourists and to inspire and educate the children of Monroe County.

“We wanted to provide that inspiration that you can be a poet, a journalist, a novelist, a short story writer or even an artist and follow a creative passion,” she said.

The trail unveiling was planned to coincide with the Alabama Bicentennial celebration and this year’s Alabama Writers Symposium, which was held Thursday and Friday in Monroeville. Alisha Linam, director of the symposium, said the goal is to celebrate Alabama’s writers.

“Our names are known throughout the world,” Linam said. “We’re known for creating and developing good authors.”

Several of those Alabama authors were honored at this year’s symposium, including Daniel Wallace and B.J. Hollars. Wallace, author of five novels — including “Big Fish,” which was later made into a motion picture and a musical on Broadway — was honored with the 2019 Harper Lee Award for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer, while Hollars, author of several books, including “The Road South: Personal Stories of the Freedom Riders,” was awarded the 2019 Truman Capote Prize for Alabama’s Distinguished Writer of Literary Non-Fiction or the Short Story.

“I’m kind of speechless,” Wallace said. “Because I’m an Alabama writer, this is the best possible recognition I could get.”

Hollars called his award “an incredible honor. It is so humbling. I feel like a kid in a candy store.”

Both men applauded the efforts to celebrate Monroe County’s rich literary heritage with the new trail.

“Literature has a two-pronged effect: it’s just entertainment on the one hand, but on the other hand it really does create better people,” Wallace said. “It really does create a more empathetic and imaginative populace. It would be my hope that this would bring more people to the books of all of the great writers in this state.”

Hollars said it’s nice to visit Monroeville, where reading and literature is valued so deeply.

“You can’t go 20 feet without seeing a placard about a writer or see a statue of a child reading a book or a mural from the book,” he said. “I hope the rest of the nation can take a cue from Monroeville and know that our books are our history and our future, too.”

For more information about the Sculpture Trail, contact Monroeville Main Street by visiting monroevillemainstreet.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama Newscenter)

2 months ago

Talladega Superspeedway’s new oversized tunnel opens

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

For the first time in the history of the Talladega Superspeedway, drivers and fans can now enter and leave the infield at any time they choose — even during a race.

“For the race teams and, more importantly, our infield guests, they are no longer ‘captured’ in here,” said Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch.

Lynch cut the ribbon on the tunnel Wednesday morning with the help of drivers Jeffrey Earnhardt and Chase Briscoe, as well as Lance Taylor from Taylor Corporation, which managed the construction. They then waved to the first group of fans who entered the track’s infield through the new tunnel.

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“I guess it’s ironic that the biggest infield in motorsports is the last one to get a full-sized tunnel, but we’ve got it and it’s here now,” Lynch said. “You saw the fans, how much they were enjoying coming through it.”

In previous years, large vehicles such as RV’s and car haulers could exit the infield only when the track was not in use. Drivers are excited about the improved access.

“I think it’s incredible,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve been in the situation where I might be in the XFinity race and you’ve got to wake up at the crack of dawn Sunday to get out before they close the gate before the Cup race.”

“It makes it way more convenient,” Briscoe added. “Not only for the teams, but also for the race fans.”

The completion of the tunnel marks the end of the first phase of a $50 million “Transformation” renovation project at the track. A new premium RV area and shower trailers were also added to the infield this spring.

“We’re changing the game again,” Lynch said. “We’re ratcheting the greatest infield in motorsports up another notch or two.”

As soon as Sunday’s GEICO 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is over, work will begin on the second phase of the project, which will feature a VIP “Talladega Garage Experience” where fans can interact with the top 22 drivers inside of a new open-air arena.

“What we’re going to build is going to be — no one is ever going to do it again because no one has as much land as we have,” Lynch said.

Earnhardt and Briscoe said they are excited about the opportunity to interact more closely with fans.

“If we don’t take the time to spend with the fans, then why would they want to come back?” Earnhardt said. “They’re spending a lot of hard-earned money they’ve made to come out and support us and watch us race, and enjoy the experience at the race track, so Talladega adding this is only going to improve the experience the fans have when they come here.”

“If we don’t have these fans, we don’t have a job,” Briscoe added. “With Talladega doing all of these renovations, I think there’s going to be more and more fans coming out than there’s ever been.”

Both drivers said one of their favorite new features coming this fall in the VIP Garage area will be WiFi.

“The WiFi is huge,” Earnhardt said. “You come to the race track and you can’t get a text to go out, you can’t a post to go up, and now they’re going to have WiFi in the Fan Zone, and that’s going to make people look through their friends’ posts and be like, ‘Man, they’re having a great time. I’m going the next time.’ I think that’s the kind of things a lot of these tracks are seeing they’ve got to do.”

“Talladega is already the best fan experience,” Briscoe said. “When you come here, you can hang out. It’s just a good time, and now, for all of the improvements we are seeing, it’s just going to make it even better. I’m looking forward to coming back in the fall and seeing the complete renovation.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Egg drop contest at Vulcan makes science fun

(D. Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

How do you drop an egg from a perch more than 100 feet high without breaking it?

Hundreds of students from around the Birmingham area put their theories to the test during an egg drop contest at Vulcan Park and Museum in Birmingham. The contest was organized by the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Engineering.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says Lizzie Ryan, a senior in mechanical engineering at UAB. “And then seeing the ones that actually make it, it’s super awesome.”

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Elementary, middle and high school students were asked to design devices that would protect a raw egg from breaking when dropped from the perch atop the Vulcan Park statue’s pedestal. Ryan said of the first five that dropped, four of them survived.

“They are screaming, ‘Drop it! drop it!’ for every egg. It’s a lot of fun.”

Zoë Penko, president of the UAB Society of Women Engineers, says the goal of the contest is to inspire students to consider science, engineering and mathematics as possible career options.

“Students will attempt to achieve what seems impossible — dropping raw eggs from the top of the Vulcan without breaking them,” said Penko, who is also president of the UAB American Society of Mechanical Engineers. “We want to encourage engineering education and inspiration in our next generation of engineers.”

If you want to compete in next year’s egg drop competition, Ryan has two pieces of advice.

“Start early and then just make it fun.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

New tunnel opens at Talladega Superspeedway

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

A new, larger tunnel opened Tuesday underneath Talladega Superspeedway, giving fans and crews the ability to enter and exit the infield at any time before, during or after a race.

NASCAR driver Jeffrey Earnhardt, the grandson of racing legend Dale Earnhardt, officially opened the tunnel. He rode through it inside John Ray’s iconic big rig, which has carried an American flag around the track for every race since 2001.

“Anytime I get to participate in anything here at Talladega, it’s guaranteed fun,” Earnhardt said.

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The new tunnel in turn three is 28 feet wide and more than 16 feet tall, enough clearance for two RVs or two car haulers to move through the tunnel simultaneously. Without this tunnel, oversized vehicles could only enter or exit the infield across the track when it was not in use because the tunnel in turn four is not big enough.

Track Chairman Grant Lynch praised Taylor Corporation for staying on schedule despite the wet winter.

“They (Taylor Corporation) worked 11 straight days over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, 24 hours a day, and they did that to get a jump start on the project, and I would say if you hadn’t have done that, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Taylor Corporation President Lance Taylor praised his crew for getting the work done on schedule.

“It was a team of us out there getting that done,” Taylor said. “We fought that thing from the first week.”

The new tunnel weighs about 3.2 million pounds. It sits on a 4-foot-thick layer of concrete. A special pump system is in place to keep groundwater from flooding the tunnel.

Taylor said his crews are now focused on repaving the section of the track cut open for the tunnel. The first of three layers of a special mix of asphalt has already been paved. Taylor said his team is working extremely hard to make sure the track will be smooth and safe for racing.

“Before we took the track out, we took a laser scan image — over a million shots of the track. We built a computer image of exactly what was there so when we back-filled the tunnel going back up, we knew the specifications to eliminate the settlement that can cause dips,” Taylor said. “When these guys are running across it at 200 miles per hour, we don’t want them to feel anything.”

The tunnel is the first of several projects happening this year as the track celebrates its 50th anniversary. A new Finish Line Premium RV area and infield shower trailers are scheduled to be complete in time for next month’s NASCAR race. After that race, a VIP “Talladega Garage Experience” will be constructed in the infield for fans to interact with drivers and crews. Fans inside the Talladega Garage Experience will have:

  • “Locker room” access to NASCAR’s top drivers and crews inside a new infield garage bay.
  • Open Air Social Club featuring a bar, a large 41-foot diagonal video screen, lounge chairs and tables.
  • Celebration Plaza featuring victory lane.
  • Watch Zone featuring a 40-foot-by-80-foot video board, a Kids Zone, a beer garden and plenty of seating.
  • Free Wi-Fi.
  • Enhanced concession stands, restroom complexes and guest services.

The Talladega Garage Experience is scheduled to be built before the October race. Earnhardt said he’s most excited about the Wi-Fi.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve been at the track and you just can’t get nothing to go out,” Earnhardt said. “Now y’all can tweet and Snapchat and send everyone all kind of videos of how much fun they’re missing out on.”

Xtreme Concepts of Birmingham will serve as the “presenting sponsor” of the Wi-Fi in the new Talladega Garage Experience. The company’s founder, Landon Ash, was on hand today to announce a partnership between Talladega Superspeedway and 1st Foundation, a volunteer organization he oversees that assists first responders in foreign and domestic conflicts. First responders can get tickets for next month’s races at discounts up to 60 percent off the regular price.

To learn more about the Transformation project, the Talladega Garage Experience or to buy tickets, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Alabama construction, workforce development leaders team to empower women

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

A growing number of women are finding career success doing construction work traditionally reserved for men. The problem is that many teenage girls and their mothers don’t know those opportunities exist.

To encourage more women to seek careers in construction, a group of volunteers started Power UP: It’s a Mother Daughter Thing! They held their fourth annual workshop Tuesday night in Birmingham, bringing hundreds of mothers and daughters together with successful women in the construction industry to become educated, engaged and explore career opportunities in carpentry, electrical, welding and plumbing.

“We are bringing the mothers and daughters together so that they can support one another and have a night out of intimate discussions with successful women in the industry,” said Rachel Roque, executive director of programs for Power UP. “It supports the young girls and also supports the parents, giving them some understanding of what the programs have to offer.”

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According to a 2017 U.S. Department of Labor report, more than 11 million people work in the construction industry, yet only 9 percent are women. Roque says the organizations supporting Power UP need more women to fill jobs.

“We want an extra pipeline of women going into construction to fill the need for skilled craft employees.”

Among the dozens of contractors and businesses at Tuesday’s event was the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute, the architect of the Go Build Alabama initiative. Jason Phelps, executive director of the organization, says events like Power UP are important for women and the businesses that need to hire them.

“Our careers are seen as traditionally a male career, so anytime they can come to an amazing event like Power UP and get the opportunity to do some hands-on activities, to talk to some women in the trades or talk to other women that are involved with these companies, that opens that door mentally for them that says, ‘this is a real opportunity for me, this is something I can do,’” Phelps said. “There are not a lot of events like Power UP, so it’s really commendable for everybody involved that puts this event on and that comes and participates to expose these mothers and daughters to this great event.”

Power UP: It’s a Mother Daughter Thing! is a collaborative effort between Central Six AlabamaWorksRegion 4, Girl’s Inc. of Central AlabamaAIDT/Alabama Workforce Training Center (AWTC), Wood and the Academy of Craft Training. Antiqua Cleggett, executive director of Central Six AlabamaWorks! and co-chair of Power UP, says the workshop will be in five locations worldwide in 2020, including Guam.

To learn more, visit poweruploud.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Talladega Superspeedway leading ‘experimental stage’ of NASCAR

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Darrell Waltrip loves Talladega, and for good reason. He made his first NASCAR start at the Talladega Superspeedway back in 1972.

“I love coming here. It’s a great place to come and bring your family and see an incredible race.”

Waltrip returned Thursday to talk about renovations to the 50-year-old track, including the new tunnel under construction in turn three.

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“I love the tunnel. I know lots of tracks have tunnels, but this is the be-all end-all of tunnels. Two of those big haulers can go through there at the same time, which is kind of unheard of, so great job, great planning, great foresight.”

Track chairman Grant Lynch praised Taylor Corporation, the general contractor on the project, for keeping the tunnel work on schedule, despite the rain.

“It started raining when they (Taylor Corporation) cut the racetrack and, for those of you who live in this part of Alabama, y’all know it hasn’t quit since,” Lynch said. “For them to be on schedule now with what they’ve had to do – 30 million gallons have been pumped out of that hole since we first started building it, so they have done awesome work – and they are on schedule and I couldn’t be prouder of what they have done for us.”

Lance Taylor, president of Taylor Corporation, said three pumps his company installed to keep groundwater and rainwater pumped out of the tunnel are working properly. He said crews are backfilling the tunnel and plan to have everything finished by the first of April, just in time for the Geico 500 on April 28.

The tunnel is just one of several infield projects the Talladega Superspeedway is planning this year as part of its $50 million “Transformation.” The track is building a 69-spot premium RV park near the finish line and a VIP “Talladega Garage Experience” for fans to interact with drivers and crews.

Waltrip, who is an analyst on FOX NASCAR broadcasts, admits some drivers may not be excited about fans being in the garage area, but he said they will tolerate it if it will help the sport grow.

“I think we are kind of at an experimental stage with our sport. We’ve had these hardcore folks like a lot of us in this room, we have how we think the sport should be run and our expectations, but we have a lot of new fans that can’t understand, ‘Why can’t I go in the garage? Why can’t I wear open-toed shoes in the garage? Why can’t I wear shorts in the garage? Why can’t I wear a tank-top in the garage?’ So, we’re going through that whole transition from the core, older fans to the younger, more current, everyday, what we see everywhere else, so I think it’s going to be interesting. I don’t necessarily think the teams will be in favor of that, but we all understand it and we all want the sport to thrive and grow and be bigger and better than it’s ever been before, so the teams will be willing to tolerate that.”

Waltrip said the drivers control the excitement.

“The drivers control how the race goes. They decide how they’re going to run the race and then they decide if they’re going to make it exciting or not. We can’t have cars riding around the top all day long – nobody’s going to watch and everyone’s going to get upset if that’s all we see.”

Waltrip praised the Talladega Superspeedway for giving fans plenty of opportunities to have fun on race weekends.

“It’s like going to Mardi Gras. They line up the motor homes and they get out to karaoke and they put up all the lights and they throw beads … it’s a pretty wild and crazy place to go.”

Lynch thanked Waltrip for taking time out of his schedule to visit.

“He’s just been a great spokesman for the sport. To take his time to come down here and help us get started with our first race as part of our Transformation Project is great for us. We think the world of him.”

Lynch presented Waltrip with a piece of the track he drove on during his first race in 1972.

For more information on the Transformation Infield Project at the Talladega Superspeedway or upcoming races, visit talladegasuperspeedway.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

(Dennis Washington)

Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

“The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

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Lance Taylor, president of Taylor Corp., said the company has installed a special drainage system underneath the tunnel, which has already pumped about 25 million gallons of water.

“The groundwater down there was terrible — we knew that when we got into the job, that’s part of what we’re dealing with,” Taylor said. “It’s something we’re having to fight all of the time along with rainwater.”

In addition to the special drainage system, Taylor said workers have placed 15,000 tons of stone and a 4-foot-thick mat of concrete underneath the tunnel to stabilize it.

“That tunnel is a different animal,” Taylor said. “It will be something I will remember for years to come.”

The new tunnel has been on the wish list for decades. Legendary NASCAR drivers Red Farmer and Donnie Allison said during the news conference that many of their friends would have to wait for races to conclude before being allowed to drive their RV’s or vehicles into the infield.

“Now they can just load up, drive on out through there,” Farmer said. “It’s going to be a blessing.”

“It’s going to make a world of difference,” Allison added.

Allison drove his first lap at Talladega Superspeedway 50 years ago in 1969 — the first stock car driver to drive a lap at the track. Allison said Talladega is the best track in NASCAR.

Talladega Speedway has always had the best race,” he said. “I know I’m a little prejudiced, but it’s the best.”

In addition to the new tunnel, the track will feature a new premium RV section this spring called the “Finish Line Premium RV.” It will include 69 paved RV camping spots for both motorhomes and fifth wheel travel trailers. Each spot will be 21 feet wide by 50 feet long and offer full hookups to power, water and sewer. The area will be secured and have designated quiet times.

“We feel good about how we are positioning ourselves to market to our fans,” Lynch said. “Seventy percent of our fans come from outside of Alabama. Half of our crowd comes from more than five hours away. That’s the draw of Talladega.”

After the April race, construction will begin on a new Fan Zone building. Fans will be able to interact with the top 22 teams in a new Fan Zone building where drivers, crews and cars will be parked.

“It’s going to be a spectacular experience for them because the No. 1 through No. 22 teams are going to be garaged on both sides of that big building,” Lynch said. “You’re basically in the middle of the sport with the greatest stars of the sport just a walk to the left or a walk to the right.”

Lynch, who announced last fall he will be retiring as chairman of the track at the end of the year, said he is thrilled to be leaving the track better than how he found it.

“To get $50 million to rebuild my favorite race track is a thrill for us and the whole team here at Talladega,” Lynch said. “We’re going to do things never been done before in the history of NASCAR.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 months ago

‘Exceptional experience’ for Birmingham Bowl teams

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Players and coaches from Wake Forest and Memphis created memories of a lifetime Thursday, and none of them were on a football field.

The teams participated in fun and games with more than 35 special-needs children and adults from The Exceptional Foundation. The event, called the “Exceptional Experience,” was held at the Sheraton in downtown Birmingham. Participants joined the players in a variety of games, including football toss, putt-putt and bean bag throws.

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“Their parents are going to hear a lot about this,” said Robbie Lee, the athletic director for The Exceptional Foundation. “I’m going to say well into January our guys are going to be brimming and their parents are going to hear about this for weeks to come.”

Alabama Power was the presenting sponsor of Thursday’s event as part of the Jared Birmingham Bowl. Foster Ware, External Affairs manager and Marketing manager of the Birmingham Division of Alabama Power, said this event is a great way for the players to interact with the community during their visit to Birmingham.

“It’s really bigger than football,” Ware said. “They’ll leave Birmingham, experience a city, the rich history that we have, but also a lot of the great work our nonprofits are doing in the city.

Lee said events like today are not just fun, but also serve as a great way to tell others about the work of The Exceptional Foundation.

“There is always someone out there who has not heard about us that’s in need of our services, and anytime we can put our brand out there and let people know what we are all about and who we’re here to serve, all the better.”

For more information about The Exceptional Foundation, visit their website. The Birmingham Bowl will take place at 11 a.m. at Legion Field on Saturday, Dec. 22.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

8 months ago

Alabama caves will become less spooky for endangered bats

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Birmingham’s Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve could become ground zero in an effort to save the nation’s bat populations threatened by white-nose syndrome.

Tuesday, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced more than $1.1 million in grants to combat the disease. Bat Conservation International at Ruffner is one of the grantees working to defeat the fungus behind the disease found in caves where bats hibernate.

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The project dubbed “Bats to the Future Fund” is a partnership of the NFWF, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Southern Company and Avangrid Foundation.

Bat Conservation International is working with ultraviolet light and polyethylene glycol, two nontoxic agents, to fight the disease-causing fungus.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)