FEMA allocates $6.5 million for arts & entertainment venues
By John McPhaul
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated $6.5 million to the José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum and Bahía Urbana, two of the most important venues dedicated to promoting the arts and entertainment sector in Puerto Rico, allowing the venues to return to the state they were in prior to the passage of Hurricane Maria.
The federal funds will help the facilities be better prepared to face future disasters. In the case of the iconic José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum, known as the “Choliseo,” the allocation of some $4.9 million is earmarked for permanent works.
“The reconstruction of these sites is part of the recovery of Puerto Rico’s economic sector; it also sets us on the road to a future where our structures are more resilient,” said José G. Baquero, the federal disaster recovery coordinator for Puerto Rico. “Undoubtedly, these funds will help to develop a sector that contributes so much to us.”
According to the Convention District management, which oversees both facilities, the entertainment industry in Puerto Rico produces nearly $2 billion per year and generates some 30,000 direct and indirect jobs annually.
Some of the works to be funded by this federal obligation include the removal and replacement of glass panels, sound equipment, fire alarms and acoustic ceilings, among other purposes. In addition, $13,000 was earmarked for upgrading lighting fixtures with surge protectors and replacing existing ceiling panels with water-resistant units.
Mariela Vallines Fernández, executive director of the Puerto Rico Convention District Authority, said the impact of the federal obligations is significant.
“These facilities compete on a global level when people decide where they want to travel to and visit; they are factors that they consider, seeing that these facilities are in good condition,” she said. “And for us to be able to present first class facilities to these tourists, means that we can compete on an equal footing with any other tourist destination.”
Vallines Fernández added that other industries also benefit indirectly, including transportation, construction and food related, to mention a few.
Bahía Urbana, meanwhile, a modern concept spanning some 87 acres of waterfront outdoor space and a site for artistic events, was awarded $1.6 million. The funds are earmarked for repairs to the water fountain pumping system, resin floors, cobblestones and electrical wiring in the dock area, among other purposes.
Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, executive director of the Puerto Rico Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3), welcomed the obligation of the funds earmarked for the infrastructure renewal of two such important venues that foster cultural development and attract both foreign and local tourists.
“We are certain that the attendance at these venues, which promote cultural activities, will surpass their pre-COVID-19 pandemic peak once its spread is controlled,” he said. “At COR3 we will support the Puerto Rico Convention District Authority staff in the recovery of these iconic sites.”