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.

3 months ago

Great Alabama 650, toughest paddle race in the U.S., hits water Saturday

(Alabama News Center/Conributed)

It’s a test of strength, endurance and mental fortitude.

The Great Alabama 650 takes paddlers on an epic adventure along the core section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, the longest trail of its kind in a single state.

From rushing whitewater to the ambling river delta, the race will challenge even the most experienced paddler.

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The world-class race starts Sept. 14 on Weiss Lake in northeast Alabama and end at Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay. Racers have 10 days to complete the course, and a $22,500 prize will be split among three divisions.

Race director Greg Wingo owns a consulting firm specializing in outdoor recreation. He was approached by the Alabama Scenic River Trail based on his background of organizing events. He’s an ultra-runner and co-founded a trail running group in Birmingham.

He said organizing a race on the water is much different than one on the land and presents unique challenges for competitors and organizers alike.

“When it comes to a paddle race and, specifically with our race where we have several different bodies of water, the logistics behind that are quite a bit more complicated,” Wingo said. “On top of that, there is a level of navigating and orienteering that’s involved for the paddlers that’s not quite as common in most running races.”

The three race divisions are male solo, female solo and two-person teams. Racers who sign up for the solo division must have at least one “crewperson” to assist throughout the race.

Also providing help are “trail angels,” people who live along the water who will assist racers, offering snacks or a place for a hot shower.

“All along the trail, there are people that live close by and love this waterway and love to help out paddlers,” Wingo said. “We’ve created a network of these angels to help out paddlers with pretty much anything on their route – acts of kindness that have been in place for decades now and we’ll be utilizing them for this race.”

These angels and a host of other volunteers will be a major force in keeping the race running properly. Most will be stationed at eight portages along the race. At the portages, racers will be required to get out of their boat and take a mandatory break. Most of these stations are at sites of dams and other places that will need to be bypassed.

“Volunteers are absolutely critical for this race,” Wingo said. “The primary responsibility of the volunteers at the portages will be to make sure racers get their mandatory time out of the water and to check on them.”

Wingo said as the race proceeds and competitors spread out, more volunteers are needed to staff the stations, some hundreds of miles apart.

“At the beginning of the race this isn’t a huge deal because the racers are still close together, but as the days go by the racers spread out, based on their ability, pretty far, so we’ll need to man multiple portages over a couple of hundred miles, staffing them 24 hours a day,” Wingo said.

As a safety precaution, race coordinators and volunteers will be able to track racers.

“We’re going to have an entire mapping system using spot trackers so you can look at the map and see where racers are at all times,” Wingo said.

Roger Yeargan, Hydro manager for the Lower Coosa River system, said Alabama Power’s hydro plants will be partnering with Alabama Scenic River Trail in support of the Great Alabama 650.

“Safety is our first priority, and EMTs will be provided access at the downstream portage locations to evaluate the racers prior to reentry,” Yeargan said. “Alabama ranks in the top five in the United States for water resources, and this event should put a spotlight on one of our great natural resources.”

At each of the six Alabama Power dams along the Coosa River, employees will verify the canoe portage is clean and ready to use. Race participants will exit the river at a designated point above each dam and reenter the river at a designated point in the tailrace below each day.

For more information on registering as a volunteer or as a racer, visit alabamascenicrivertrail.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Alabama Crimson Tide players looking ahead to new football season

(Kent Gidley/UA Athletics)

The three Crimson Tide players who attended SEC Football Media Days 2019 are more interested in what the team can accomplish this year than they are in looking back on the loss to Clemson in the national championship game to end the season earlier this year.

That doesn’t mean they’re not learning from the loss.

A healthy Tua Tagovailoa, a more experienced Dylan Moses and an unsatisfied Jerry Jeudy weighed in on what awaits the Tide in the new season.

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Crimson Tide football players at SEC Media Days 2019 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Get ready for a 100% healthy Tagovailoa

One of the biggest questions for Crimson Tide quarterback Tagovailoa going into the offseason was his health and fitness. After suffering injuries last season, Tagovailoa feels better than ever.

“I stayed off my legs as much as possible,” he said. “Of course, you’re going to gain weight and whatnot, but it was very important to me to get back into shape. I feel better than, probably, since I’ve got to the University of Alabama. I’m at 100%. Thank you, guys, for caring for me.”

He and Tide strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran have made some modifications to Tagovailoa’s workouts.

“We’re doing things a little different,” Tagovailoa said. “The next step for me is getting into the training room, whether I’m hurting or not. If you don’t get a tuneup for your car, it’s not going to work the same as it did when you drove it off the lot.”

The Crimson Tide has had amazing success with Tagovailoa, despite the loss to Clemson.

“We just didn’t finish the way we were supposed to finish,” Tagovailoa said.

“I think it’s good to both get the opportunity to win and have the opportunity to lose as well,” he continued. “I know this sounds bad, but I’m glad I had that opportunity to feel loss like that. What can you learn from winning? You can’t learn as much. When you lose, you start appreciating things a lot more and with a different perspective. Many lessons have been learned.”

Moving forward as a leader of the team, Tagovailoa talked about the philosophy moving forward into next season. “Our mantra now for our guys that we have as a leadership group is to ‘Never Be Satisfied,’” Tagovailoa said. “It’s the way to go for us. We have to keep going until we get what we want.”

One of the emerging leaders alongside Tagovailoa is linebacker Dylan Moses. “I can tell you one thing that Dylan has gotten really, really good at is being a leader for the defense, you know?” Tagovailoa said. “Dylan’s not a person that talks as much but him being able to come out of his comfort zone, his shell, being able to be open with guys, build a relationship with guys on the defense as well as the offense guys on the team, is what earns him respect from all these guys who want to listen to him.”

Moses grows into defensive leadership role

Moses is one of the team’s emerging leaders.

“I’m happy to be where I’m at right now,” he said. “I’m happy to be a leader for the defense, I’m happy to have guys depending upon me to lead them because I want to lead them. I want to be a great leader for them.”

Moses was asked about the difficulty of moving from home in Louisiana to Tuscaloosa.

“It wasn’t really that difficult,” he said. “My senior year I went to IMG Academy (Florida), so I had that experience of leaving home and having, just like, that pressure taken off of me. I was comfortable with leaving home after going to IMG, I was like ‘OK, I can do this.’”

Moses is a go-to contact for other athletes from Louisiana who are about to experience a big move, and he enjoys giving advice.

“I’m happy I was able to do that for a lot of guys and still to this day I have guys reaching out to me, trying to get advice from me on how I did it,” he said.

Moses has nothing but praise for the defensive unit the Tide will field this year, saying it is full of “very hardworking guys who are on the same page with each other. They’re very athletic, strong. Just having all those guys on the same team is a blessing.”

Moses’ policy is like others on the team: finishing strong. “I don’t want to leave the field. I’m very motivated. I don’t want to leave the field.”

Jeudy looks to add his name to Crimson Tide history

Jeudy is seen by many as the next great receiver in Alabama football. A confident Jeudy is motivated to be a part of “the best team to come through Alabama.”

“Working day by day, working on the little things, the fundamentals, things like that. I want to better myself as a player,” Jeudy said about the offseason work he’s put in.

That work is necessary to be that next legendary wideout, he said.

“When I got out of high school it was Calvin Ridley. When I was in high school it was Amari Cooper,” Jeudy said. “Now I like watching a lot of receivers in the NFL. I like taking things from other receivers and adding it to my game. It’s just a blessing being compared to those guys. It’s a great group of guys that came through Alabama who created a legacy for themselves and created a path for other young wide receivers at Alabama.”

The loss to Clemson showed Jeudy and the team what can happen if they don’t bring their best efforts for an entire game.

“Clemson took advantage of every opportunity they had to do so,” he said. “We just had to secure our plays better and play a better game, but we didn’t. My goal for this season is finishing the year strong and everybody finishing healthy – go back to the national championship, go undefeated, being a better team than we were last year.”

Finding the motivation to finish the season strong comes down to leadership, Jeudy said.

“We’ve got a lot of leaders on the team helping us with that. It’s very good to have leaders on the team to help motivate guys instead of the coaches. When you have coaches and leaders on the team who do that, it really motivates the team to try and be the best team possible.”

As unsatisfied as Jeudy is with how last season ended, he is excited to play a role in the next Alabama team to build on the modern dynasty.

“It’s a great team, a great coaching staff,” he said of this year’s team. “Just me being a part of Alabama means a lot. Twenty or 30 years from now you want to bring your kids back to Alabama to show them all the rings you won, the accolades, who was on the team, the type of players we had and stuff like that. It’s great playing for Alabama.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn excited to call offensive plays again

(Bruce Nix/Alabama NewsCenter)

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he is excited to return to calling the plays for the Tigers offense this year, even if he doesn’t yet know who will be under center to receive those play calls.

“When I decided to go back and call plays, that’s really who I am. I’m an offensive guy,” Malzahn said at SEC Football Media Days. “When I’m back in the swing of things, the day-in and day-out coaching on the field, what happens is the whole team takes on my personality. It just feels natural. I wasn’t really good at standing back and watching you.”

Malzahn is entering fall camp without knowing who his quarterback will be.

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Auburn coach Gus Malzahn looks ahead to 2019 season from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“Joey Gatewood and Bo Nix, two freshmen fighting for the position,” Malzahn said of the candidates to start at quarterback. “Both of them are very athletic. They can create things when things break down. They have big-time arms. Both of them are really hungry for the job.”

Malzahn said he expects a starter to emerge from fall camp.

One of them will take the first snap when Auburn faces Oregon in Dallas to kick off the season.

Auburn returns running backs Kam Martin and Boobee Whitlow, along with an offensive line that Malzahn says feels like they’ve “got something to prove.”

“All five starters are back. They are five seniors,” Malzahn said about the offensive line. “They went through some growing pains last year. They got beat up. They kind of got an edge about them. They went through spring against our defensive line and really held their own.”

Malzahn’s confidence extends to the team’s wide receiving corps. Will Hastings and Eli Stove are back in the fold after injuries last season along with young receivers who got playing time last year.

“We’re really feeling good with the overall depth of wide receivers with the playmakers that we have,” Malzahn said.

The confidence includes the defensive side of the ball as well, with Malzahn saying he believes this could be “the best defense that we have at least in the 10 years I’ve been at Auburn.”

“It really starts with our defensive line, and the three guys that chose to come back, you know, with Derrick, Marlon and the addition of Nick Coe,” Malzahn said. “With the other guys they have, we really feel like we have a chance to be dominant on the defensive line.”

The defensive backfield, though losing some members, still feels solid to Malzahn.

“We feel like we’re really in really good shape with the leadership of K.J. Britt and Chandler Wooten. We really don’t think we’ll miss a beat at the linebacker position,” Malzahn said. “In the secondary, we have them all back but one and really the three seniors that are leading the way are Daniel Thomas, Javaris Davis and Jeremiah Dinson. They have some big-game experience and are a very confident group, had an outstanding spring.”

Auburn faces one of its toughest schedules in recent years, but Malzahn looks at it as an opportunity.

“It’s not a shock to our system,” he said. “I really believe we’re used to it. We’re really looking at it as a great opportunity for us.”

Malzahn noted that “we end it with Georgia and Alabama, both at home, and of course two years ago that worked out pretty good.”

“Ride for the Brand” is the mantra of this year’s Auburn Tigers with Malzahn saying it came from “a combination of a lot of things,” and it’s about the mindset to “put Auburn first.”

“We’re in a day and time that is real selfish, and we’re just trying to get back to Auburn. We play for the guy beside us,” Malzahn said. “So just putting Auburn first, whether it’s a coach, whether it’s a player, everything. I think there’s great power in that. And we got a lot of tradition.”

Malzahn, who is entering his seventh season as the Tigers head coach, brushed aside chatter he could be on the hot seat with a disappointing season, despite the substantial contract he signed after the 2017 season.

“I got a job that expects to win championships, and I expect to win championships. I knew that when I signed up for that,” Malzahn said. “In the years that we win championships, it’s good. The years we don’t, it’s hot seat this, hot seat that. And it’s just part of the job description. Some places eight wins, they celebrate. That’s just not part of Auburn. We expect to win championships.”

Malzahn voiced his excitement about the return of several prominent players who could have gone to the NFL draft this past offseason.

“We had eight of our juniors that seriously considered leaving early to NFL that chose to come back. I really think that’s where the core heartbeat of our team is, with those guys,” Malzahn said. “They are very hungry. I feel like they’ve got something to prove, and we have very good leadership.”

Many coaches have been asked this week about the transfer portal and how it affects their program.

“I think everybody’s got an opinion, but I think the bottom is I think it’s probably here to stay. The biggest challenge I think from a coach’s standpoint is roster management. And I really believe the teams that can manage the roster the best, it will be an advantage,” Malzahn said. “I think moving forward you’re going have to know about the heartbeat of your team. And then I think there’s something, too, about relationships, just having those real good relationships, those honest relationships with your players, their parents and everything that goes with it. And I think the teams that can do that the best, I think they’ll have an advantage.”

As for the team he has now, there is plenty to be excited about, Malzahn believes.

“We got a lot of great players,” he said. “And this whole offseason has been really, you know, dictated with that. And we’ve had all kinds of speakers, former players, we’ve had our former players on our staff that coach, that won championships, getting in front of our, you know, team. And really just to go back to our core values, work, hard work, things like that with our creed. And it’s been really special.”

Malzahn didn’t let Media Days go by without acknowledging the deaths of Rod and Paula Bramblett. Rod Bramblett was the play-by-play announcer for Auburn football, basketball and baseball. The couple died in a wreck in May. The teenage driver of the other vehicle was charged with manslaughter in their deaths.

“We lost a very important member of the Auburn family two months ago, Rod Bramblett and wife, Paula, were in a tragic car wreck,” Malzahn said. “He’s a guy you don’t replace. He was a blessing for me, and our staff and I know all of the other coaches at Auburn to work with. He’s going to be very well missed. I just ask everybody keeps his family in their thoughts and prayers, not just now, but really this whole year.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

SEC Football Media Days kicks off in Alabama

(D. Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey touched on sports gambling, player mental health, officiating and this year’s historic milestone for college football as he kicked off SEC Football Media Daysin Hoover.

The commissioner went over those and other topics ranging from looks back to last year and to issues that will be relevant for the coming year. One of the primary issues he brought up for the coming year is sports gambling.

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“The SEC presidents and chancellors have expressed strong support for NCAA national office efforts to seek federal legislation that will regulate sports gambling,” Sankey said. “Ideally, there would be uniform practices governing gambling on college sports, particularly eliminating in-game betting and proposition bets on college sports.”

The commissioner went on to talk about the effects that unregulated sports gambling can have on student-athletes and what the conference plans to do to support them.

Celebrating 150 years of college football at SEC Media Days 2019 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“We’re seeing trends in the mental health area that should cause us all to pause before these ideas around specific event betting within college sports are allowed to take place. And I’m talking about, for example, whether a field goal is made or missed, whether a three-point try is successful. Is a pitched ball a strike or a ball?” Sankey said. “In January, five autonomy conferences adopted new minimum requirements for a provision of mental health counseling for student-athletes. I’m pleased to say for the Southeastern Conference, we meet or exceed those requirements.”

Sankey also discussed new officiating procedures, particularly how the league will address the public regarding calls and the addition of a sideline monitor used for looking over replay footage. “One of the benefits, in addition to the extra voice in the process, will be the ability to better explain replay decisions from the official to our head coaches on the field.” Other measures include more consistent training and overviews with officials and the creation of new communication channels to inform the public.

Sankey also discussed events celebrating 150 years of college football that take place all season with ESPN, including the documentary series “Saturdays in the South” and other activities that SEC schools will participate in.

SEC players will display commemorative patches on their uniforms. The league will also celebrate 150 of the finest moments of SEC football.

These will not be selected by the commissioner, Sankey said. “So, if someone gets angry about whether or not a moment is part of their 150th best, it won’t be me.”

The “Saturday’s in the South” documentary series will broadcast on Tuesdays for 90 minutes beginning in August in eight parts. “You will hear stories of greased railroad tracks, an era before the SEC chant was ever heard, and weave tales through the decades of the modern area of success experienced now by the Southeastern Conference,” Sankey said.

A preview of the series is being shown to select media groups Tuesday, July 16 at Birmingham’s historic Lyric Theatre.

To visit the new SEC Officiating Website: www.secsports.com/officiating.

5 months ago

Montevallo named Tree City USA

(Fotowerks Custom Photography)

Montevallo was named a 2018 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for the city’s commitment to effective urban forest management.

Montevallo met the program’s four requirements of having a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance or proclamation.

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Tree City USA has been around since 1976, providing a framework for cities to keep their communities green and full of trees.

“Tree City USA communities see the impact an urban forest has in a community firsthand,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Additionally, recognition brings residents together and creates a sense of community pride, whether it’s through volunteer engagement or public education.”

Montevallo also has Orr Park, a preserve along Shoal Creek known for tree carvings by local artist Tim Tingle.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation website, more than 3,400 communities have committed to becoming a Tree City USA. Several cities in Alabama have made the commitment, including Auburn, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa. The total population of Tree City USA communities nationwide is about 145 million.

Trees serve a great purpose, increasing property values and wildlife habitat, while reducing home cooling costs and air pollution, said Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost.

“Our natural world is at the very core of our existence. In Montevallo, we are a proud tribe of tree-huggers,” Cost said. “Being named a Tree City USA is a distinct honor, which we wholeheartedly embrace, appreciate and celebrate.”

To learn more about Tree City USA and the Arbor Day Foundation, visit https://www.arborday.org/programs/treeCityUSA/about.cfm.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Alabama Power Foundation grant to help shoreline restoration in Mobile County

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

A grant from the Alabama Power Foundation will assist in ongoing restoration efforts at Bayou La Batre’s Lightning Point.

Alabama Power Mobile Division Vice President Nick Sellers recently presented the grant to The Nature Conservancy at the organization’s board of trustees meeting in Gulf Shores. The grant will support work being done by the conservancy to restore and stabilize shoreline at Lightning Point.

“Alabama Power Foundation is proud to invest in Lightning Point to help preserve the coastal shoreline and create habitats that support a wide range of fish and birds,” Sellers said. “Alabama Power has a long legacy of environmental stewardship along the Gulf Coast, and we are proud to add Lightning Point to our list of projects.”

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Lightning Point is the hub for the state’s seafood and fishing processing industry, making it one of the state’s most important coastal habitats. The restoration efforts involve more than a mile of breakwaters and 40 acres of coastal wetlands.

“This project is the result of tremendous partnership between a range of people who care deeply about the bayou,” said Roger Mangham, director of The Nature Conservancy in Alabama. “We are honored to work with our friends to help protect and restore one of Alabama’s most iconic places.”

Work began after a groundbreaking in April with Gov. Kay Ivey. Construction is expected to take about a year to complete, with an additional four to five years needed for vegetation to cover the areas between the breakwaters and the existing shoreline.

The result is expected to be 40 acres of marsh, tidal creeks and upland habitats for fish, birds and shellfish. A walking path and a low-impact parking lot made with green techniques are to be added as well.

Several public and private organizations are involved with the restoration, including The Nature Conservancy, Alabama Power, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Team effort praised in new restoration project for Bayou La Batre’s Lightning Point from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 months ago

Flag Day busiest time of year for Homewood business

(Pixabay)

Held annually on June 14, Flag Day commemorates the day in 1777 that the Second Continental Congress adopted the United States flag.

For Lee Forrester, owner of American Flag Company in Homewood, it’s the busiest time of the year.

“We just can’t keep up almost. It’s a wonderful thing right now so we’re going to enjoy it while it lasts,” Forrester said.

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American Flag Company opened its doors about 100 years ago making flags. Forrester is the third owner and has turned the business into a flag distribution and installation company.

“We’re dealers,” Forrester said. “We provide whatever the public needs.”

American Flag Company owner talks about Flag Day and the flag business from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Forrester, who comes from a family of entrepreneurs, said it means a lot to him to own his own business, and he loves that it is a flag business.

“Having a flag business, since I didn’t serve in the military, gives me a feeling of giving it back,” he said.

Forrester said Alabama’s patriotism makes the state “a great place to have a flag business.”

Talking to him about Flag Day, Forrester gets excited: “It should get everybody excited. I mean, we’re talking about our national flag.”

American Flag Company doesn’t only sell American flags, though. It also sells all kinds of other flags, from military flags to college flags.

“Alabama, Auburn, UAB. Everybody is going to buy their flags. We offer custom flags, religious flags, patriotic flags. Just any type of flag that’s out there we can offer it. If we don’t have it, we can get it,” Forrester said.

The company also provides flag installation and repair services.

“If you have a hundred-foot flag pole you want to put in your commercial business, we can do that as well. We’ve got a bucket truck, so we can service the flag poles even if the rope is broken from the top. So, no job is too big or too small,” Forrester said.

Forrester shared a personal story about a time he saw a flag in disrepair at a small community cemetery.

“I have a place on Smith Lake, and we were on the way one day to the lake. There is this cemetery off to the side, nice church. The cemetery is well-maintained, military mostly, and a storm had blown the flag pole down,” he said.

“I saw it once, and the next week I saw it again. I showed up and put them up a new flag pole and didn’t let them know anything about it. It’s kind of like one of those angels that appeared out of nowhere, so I felt good about that,” Forrester said. “They still have their flag, and they keep flying that flag regardless; even if they don’t buy it from me, that’s OK.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)