Friday, February 25, 2011

Coliseum Rain: Cause and Future Prevention

The following is the University Physical Plant’s evaluation of the cause and future prevention concerning rainwater entering Tad Smith Coliseum during Thursday night’s women’s basketball game. It should be noted that there was a complete roof replacement that was finished in November 2009.

What occurred?
Rainwater entered from the dampers located in the cupola area of the Coliseum. In the best interests of the student athletes’ safety, the entering rainwater caused suspension and subsequent cancellation of a women's basketball game. The water entering the building was described as a light sprinkle and at no time were there gushes or streams.

What meteorological conditions were present during the event?
Straight-line winds gusting to 45 mph and driving rain were present and directly contributed to the in-leakage of water onto the arena playing surface.

How many dampers are there on top of the coliseum?
There are 24 pneumatic dampers on the circumference of the cupola on the roof of the Coliseum. The University Physical Plant and Athletics departments had anticipated this type of unacceptable failure and had taken steps to mitigate its undesirable effects. Notably, before the men's Kentucky game a few weeks ago, the dampers were actually screwed shut.

What purpose do the dampers play?
The dampers are in place to allow for ventilation of the Coliseum. These dampers work in conjunction with the outdoor air intake system of the air handlers at the Coliseum. Normally, when the air handlers are running they pull in outside air. The dampers in the cupola act as relief dampers to prevent over pressurizing the Coliseum. The Coliseum is presently under a slight negative pressure, meaning the air is flowing into the building from the outside.

Why did the dampers allow water to pass through?
The dampers are the original components of the air ventilation system of the Coliseum. These dampers were never intended to be airtight and are not a deterrent to blowing rain. Rain carried by wind of sufficient velocity will push through the damper assemblies. Thursday evening's heavy rain and high winds allowed water to follow the path of least resistance.

How is the University going to prevent this from occurring again?
With the help of an engineer and possibly an architect, the Physical Plant will begin working through Facilities Planning to develop a proposed long-term solution to this issue.

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