GENEVA — Stiles Field at the Thomas B. Poole ’61 and Family Sports Dome has sat empty since Hobart and William Smith Colleges shut down in March.
As a result, no one was inside when the $3.5 million state-of-the-art sports dome collapsed Sunday afternoon.
There were blowing winds sweeping through the area that day, but the dome had been through far worse in its less-than-a-year existence. Despite the dome’s endurance, even through a tough Finger Lakes winter, a massive gash atop of what has been nicknamed “The Bubble” nearest St. Clair Street exposed the astroturf field and deflated HWS’ newest athletic facility.
“What we think right now is that a factory seam split, literally along the seam about on the 10-yard line on the south side of the field,” Vice President for Campus Life Robb Flowers said in a phone call with the Times. “What we’re aware of now is it started at the very top.”
Around midday on past Saturday, a neighbor of the Colleges was walking by and saw a piece at the very top of the dome that was flapping in the wind as if it was starting to deflate. Campus officials were alerted and Flowers, along with campus safety, were on the scene within minutes.
“It looks as if it is a failure of the structural seem of the bubble,” Flowers explained.
Flowers also noted that a forensic engineer is expected to take a look at the failed seam to be certain that the Colleges and the company that built the Dome have a full understanding of what happened. Yeadon Domes out of Minneapolis constructed HWS’ newest facility, and is expected to shoulder the burden of repair costs.
“We have notified our insurance carriers, but we believe that given our perception that it is a structural failure, it will be the company that built it,” Flowers said.
Flowers added that the initial outlook is the damage should be easy to repair.
“The good news for us right now is that our in-house facilities folks think this is a fairly simple fix, simply ordering a new panel, having the panel bolted into the area that failed, and then re-inflating the bubble,” Flowers stated.
Given that the fix currently looks like an uncomplicated one, Flowers noted that the next steps are to have people from Yeadon Domes come to campus and take a look at the ripped seam and have them provide a plan for the best means by which the dome can be repaired and re-inflated.
Another silver lining is that since the air was let out at a relatively slow rate, few interior objects were damaged in the process. A few lights on the inside may be all that need to be additionally replaced or repaired.
Flowers and the in-house facility workers are optimistic it won’t be a huge undertaking or time commitment to get the dome back up and running.
For a facility that hosted a myriad of sports teams — both varsity and intramural — including the first three regular-season games for 2020 Hobart lacrosse, it appears as if this local version of “Deflategate” is nothing more than a balloon that lost its air.