TUPELO – As classes wind down and average temperatures begin to climb north of 80 degrees, nearly six months of construction work at Tupelo High School is starting to show visible progress. The foundation for a new storm shelter and athletic center is set, and walls are starting to go up.

“They’re probably 25-28% complete with it,” said Tupelo Public School District Executive Director of Operations Charles Laney shortly after visiting the worksite on Wednesday afternoon. “Like with anything you build, you’ve got to get the pipes and sewage structures in the ground first. You don’t see that part, but once the walls go up, the pace picks up.”

When the district broke ground on the shelter, the Daily Journal reported that the project was expected to be completed in a 300-day window. After low temperatures and rain delayed progress this winter, Laney expects construction to be completed by mid to late January, which would be around 400 days.

With 12,707 square feet, the shelter will be able to house and protect 2,200 students, staff and visitors from wind speeds up to 250 miles per hour. It will also double as a multi-purpose athletic facility capable of hosting basketball games, volleyball tournaments and other events. The structure will include a sound system for school concerts, three concession stands, locker rooms and a weight room.

“It’s going to be much more than just a gym,” Laney said. “It’s going to be a very multi-purpose facility that can be used by a wide variety of community members.”

Over the next few weeks, Laney expects that the facility’s dome roof will be inflated. Currently, the structure’s 24-foot perimeter walls are being built. Once those walls are air tight, the dome will be inflated and re-enforced with rebar and concrete. The center of the roof will be 50 feet high.

Laney estimates that 25-30 workers are at the site each day. Dome construction is being completed by Dome Technology from Idaho Falls, Idaho, who completed separate storm structures at North and South Pontotoc high schools in March.

The project is expected to cost a total of $6.1 million, $2.1 million of that cost is paid for by a Federal Emergency Management grant with the district picking up the difference.

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