Burst pipe closes West Gym for several months

by Sonia Qin | 5/5/17 10:00am

Last week, members of the College’s community were notified by email that the West Gym would be closed as it had suffered from water damage due to a burst water pipe. The email announcement said that only the basketball, volleyball and badminton courts would be affected.

During the afternoon of April 20, a support holding the sprinkler line that hung beneath the indoor track suspended above West Gym came loose from the ceiling. As a result of that failure, the pipe sagged and ruptured, causing significant water damage to the West Gym floor, according to associate vice president of facilities, operations and management Frank Roberts.

Senior associate athletics director for facilities and operations Richard Whitmore said the individuals using the West Gym at the time notified staff, who then responded to the situation.

“We feel what happened is due to the location of the sprinkler line,” Roberts said. “It’s susceptible to being hit by a basketball or a volleyball. The support in the ceiling had loosened up over time.”

Roberts added that FO&M will work on attaching the pipe more securely in the future.

“We may be putting in recess sprinkler heads, so if there’s a fire they will just pop down from the ceilings,” Roberts said.

The real damage was sustained by the floor of the gym, Whitmore said, adding that FO&M has spent the last few weeks trying to dry the floor and remove water from the wood and substructure below.

He added that initially FO&M was working with Servpro, a water damage restoration service in nearby Lebanon.

Roberts said that FO&M has been using dehumidifying equipment and fans to dry out the floor, as well as cutting holes in the gym floor to dry out the area beneath it. His team has also been using a moisture meter to measure the moisture content in the floor.

“We’re trying to get those readings down to 9 percent,” said Roberts, adding that currently some areas have a reading of around 12 percent.

Roberts said that he expects to have the floor completely dried in five to 10 days. Once the floor is dry, it will need to be sanded and refinished.

Roberts said the total cost of the repairs is currently unknown.

“After we get the floor dried out, then the final assessment of the repairs that need to take place will come in,” he said.

Whitmore noted that once the floor is dried, a portion of the West Gym, possibly two half basketball courts, may be reopened for use.

According to Whitmore, some of the athletic programming that normally takes place in the West Gym has already been re-accommodated.

“We have moved basketball outside, and we are trying to accommodate as much programming as we can without having to cancel any,” he said.

Roberts said that the final repairs on West Gym will probably take place after Commencement and reunions, though the gym will be the location of the Commencement ceremony in the case of inclement weather.

“We will be coordinating the windows of opportunity for moving forward with the final repairs with the athletics department,” he added.

Whitmore said that he hopes to completely reopen West Gym by the second week of July.

“We’re trying to do the best we can to find optimal space for our programming and get West Gym up and running as soon as we can,” Whitmore said.

President of the badminton club Christine Dong ’19 said that the club, comprised of about 24 students, used to practice three hours every Tuesday and Wednesday in the West Gym. However, now the team must cancel all practices until the West Gym repairs are complete.

Dong said that even though most members of the club are graduate students, had the West Gym remained usable, approximately five students would still have received a P.E. credit.

“Obviously I’d like to be able to play there, but I understand that it’s because of circumstances that are outside of our control,” Dong said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to play more during the summer.”

Amanda Zhou contributed reporting.