HWC floor reopens

The third-floor gymnasium of the Health and Wellness Center will reopen this week after water damage forced officials to replace the flooring. The fourth floor, which also sustained damages, will be replaced in December but will remain open until then.

On Aug. 28, students playing soccer in the fourth-floor gymnasium inadvertently hit a sprinkler with the ball during the course of a game. It prompted the 20 other sprinkler fixtures on the ceiling to spray water for 20 minutes. The gym floor was covered with an inch of water that began to seep down to the third floor, where it caused the most significant damage.

“Almost immediately after the leak occurred, the floor boards began to (curl) and then buckle,” said Tony Vecchione, assistant athletics director for facilities and operations. “The damage progressively got worse as things started to dry. We could never really know how bad it was or when it would happen again. This is why we decided to replace the floor.”

Officials opted to work on the third floor first because conditions were worse there.

The preliminary work began on the floor during the last week of September and was completed Oct. 17. The gymnasium was used that day. A final coat of finish was applied the next day, forcing the third floor to close again. The finish must dry for at least a week before the floor can operate, and Vecchione said the floor should open midweek.

Fourth-floor re-paneling will begin Dec. 14 and will be completed by Jan. 12, when students return from winter break. Patches of the floor have already been temporarily replaced so the gym could be used while the third floor was being repaired. Both floors will be open and usable until the fourth floor shuts down for repairs in December.

Officials said in early September that preliminary cost assessment was about $240,000 and that all expenses were covered by insurance. Joseph Yohe, assistant director of risk management, was unavailable for comment this week.

No wellness center programming or exercise science classes were canceled because of the third-floor closure. Students can also use the Smith Center gymnasium for free play from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on weeknights. Hours were not extended at the Smith Center when the water damage originally caused the Health and Wellness facilities to shut down in September.

The third and fourth floors are made up of basketball courts, which are also used for other sports.

Vecchione said he has received few complaints, but some students said they are frustrated by the wait for an open court at the Health and Wellness Center.

“The wait is long because there’s really only one court that we can actually play on,” sophomore Omar Griffin said.

Wellness center staff said they have not seen dramatic changes in wait times in the second-floor cardiovascular areas and weight rooms.

“Not many people asked about the closing of the third floor. If they did, I told them to go to the Smith Center,” said graduate assistant Brooke Bartels, a personal trainer.

Although Vecchione initially said that measures would not be taken to cover the sprinklers, officials have since decided to take precautions so that an incident like August’s does not happen again.

“We are not convinced that the cages (around the sprinklers) are good enough to prevent them from being hit. We’re considering putting up netting,” Vecchione said.

He added that students playing soccer pose the greatest threat to triggering the sprinklers again.

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