Copyright 2017 Bangor Daily News
Bangor Daily News (Maine)
Damage to the Mahaney Dome on the University of Maine campus in Orono, which collapsed under the weight of heavy, wet snow and high winds last Thursday, will be re-evaluated further this week, according Will Biberstein, the senior associate athletic director for internal operations.
Once the damage is assessed, UMaine plans to attempt to repair the roof of the inflatable, dome-like structure.
"The first step is to get a contractor to repair the damage to the exterior of the dome. Then we want to inflate it for evaluation and assessment so we can make an educated decision," said Biberstein. "I hope we can get started before the end of the week."
Biberstein said there a couple of tears in the dome, including a vertical tear that spanned "approximately 90-100 feet" and a horizontal tear that is about 8-10 feet.
The university has insurance on the dome, which measures 200 feet by 200 feet at the base and stands 55 feet high at the center. The roof material consists of an inner layer and an outer layer.
It was built with a $1 million gift from late UMaine athletics benefactor and Bangor businessman Larry K. Mahaney.
Biberstein said that re-pressurizing the facility would give officials the chance to assess the condition of the turf, the lights and the mechanical systems inside. However, there is still snow and ice on top of the collapsed roof.
The structure, which was built in 2006, has been a valuable facility for Black Bear athletic teams, UMaine students and members of the Greater Bangor community. UMaine's football, baseball, softball and women's soccer teams are among the primary users, along with campus recreation and club teams.
Several clinics are held in the dome, and high school teams also use it, especially when the spring baseball and softball season is approaching.
Biberstein said that in the spring, the facility is in use 19 hours per day.
"It begins with the football team at 5 [a.m.] and ends with campus recreation at midnight," said Biberstein.
He hopes UMaine can get it back in use by Jan. 17, when classes resume.
"We're going to keep our heads up, move forward, stay positive and look for solutions," said Biberstein, who added that the dome was properly inflated at the time of its collapse.
"Whenever we have a storm, we add [air] pressure," he said of efforts to help prevent such collapses.
The Mahaney Dome roof collapsed under similar circumstances in 2007, putting the building out of service for about two weeks. In that instance, there was a vertical tear running 16-20 feet near the southwest door of the facility.
The UMaine baseball and softball teams will be two of the most impacted programs, but interim baseball coach Nick Derba and softball coach Mike Coutts are taking the situation in stride. Both have contingency plans in place if the dome isn't available long term.
"We'll adjust according to what is laid out to us," said Coutts. "We can get into the [Paul J. Mitchell Batting Pavilion] and the field house.
"You can't let it get you down. We'll use it to motivate us. It will be a new challenge," said Coutts. "One of the things for us that is beneficial is we have all of our players coming back except Janelle [Bouchard], so we won't have a ton of new teaching we have to do. We'll be reviewing and working on getting better."
He said if they can't use the Mahaney Dome, the biggest impact is that they "won't be able to have live-game scrimmages and hit off live pitching and playing balls off the bats."
"But it won't be that big of an issue for us. We'll work around it," he added.
"We're just going to have to be a little more creative," said Derba. "Not too many colleges in the Northeast have domes. It is a huge advantage for us. But we'll figure out how to make it work."
Derba said the biggest disadvantage is not being able to have scrimmages in the dome. But he also noted that they will use the Mitchell Batting Pavilion and other campus facilities while also considering off-campus sites such as Sluggers Baseball and Softball Training Facility in Brewer.
"And in the worst-case scenario, we'll chop up the ice and shovel the snow off Mahaney Diamond so we can take ground balls [outside]," said Derba. "We'll get ready to the best of our ability."
The softball team opens its season at the Belmont University WinterFest Tournament Feb. 10-12, in Nashville, Tennessee. The baseball team starts on Feb. 17 with a three-game series at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
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