School's new gym also serves as shelter from tornados - KCTV5

School's new gym also serves as shelter from tornados

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ARCHIE, MO (KCTV) -

Missouri's newest basketball court offers more than just a place for students to play.

It also offers shelter for the entire town from an EF-5 tornado.

When Archie, MO, school administrators were looking for money to build a new gym, they found it from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and all they had to do was make it a tornado shelter.

The gym was filled with basketball fans Wednesday night, but when severe weather strikes, it could save lives.

"Bad weather comes along, you know, we know we have plenty of room for anyone who wants to show up," said Scott Gaddie, who has two kids who attend the school.

The district now has one of the largest tornado shelters in the state. It can hold up to 1,200 people. That is plenty of room for the town of about 900 people, but not many shelters have a scoreboard built in.

"Beautiful, nice, a lot more seating than what we used to have. It is a cool place to have for basketball," Gaddie said.

The gym's walls are only about eight inches thick, but they are able to withstand winds up to 250 mph, which come in the strongest tornados.

That strength comes from the dome design that has plenty of steel and concrete reinforcement, which is great news for parents.

"Now they will have a bit more peace of mind and know their children will be safe and secure and taken care of," said athletic director Troy Schulte.

Archie's gym was already in the construction process when the Joplin tornado hit just 100 miles to the south.

"It reassured us we were doing something positive for everybody," Schulte said.

The Archie district received $1.1 million in FEMA grants, and district administrators said without that funding, they would have built a much smaller new gym. And town residents would have faced less secure shelters in the event of Mother Nature's fiercest storms.

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