Bubble Collapse Complicates Schedules For Athletic Teams

The protective bubble over Alumni Stadium’s football field was pumped back up on Friday afternoon, about a week after it collapsed under the two feet of snow deposited by winter storm Nemo.

It is still possible, however, that the bubble will not stay up until the end of the winter sports season in late March, according to Michael Jednak, director of facilities services.

A team of Boston College engineers and outside engineers must still meet with athletic department management to evaluate whether or not the newly repaired bubble, which sustained a tear near the 50-yard line, is safe to continue using. Jednak said in an email that the decision should be made sometime this week.

“We have to repair it just to take it down,” Jednak said. “The membrane gets folded in a particular pattern, so it has to be lowered and folded slowly.”

Setting up or taking down the bubble takes about one week and 25 to 30 workers, Jednak said.
Before the storm hit, Jednak said that the bubble was locked down, evacuated, and pumped with extra air to stabilize the structure.

According to BC athletics’ official website, the Tevlar bubble is also equipped with a wind sensor-which detects high winds and adjusts the air pressure inside accordingly-and a snow sensor, which increases the temperature on the bubble’s surface to melt snow.

The football, baseball, field hockey, golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, and track teams, as well as several intramural teams, practice inside the bubble during the winter. Ever since the bubble came down, all teams have had to make alternate arrangements. Some intramural leagues, including indoor soccer, have simply cancelled practices and games indefinitely. Several competitive teams began their seasons right after a week of unfamiliar locations and practice times.

The women’s softball team had to find alternate locations for two weeks, while the men’s baseball team, which began its season last Friday in North Carolina, spent the last week of preseason seeking out alternate practice facilities, including the Plex as well as off-campus batting cages.

The lacrosse team, whose season began on Saturday, practiced at Cohasset last week. The trip took two hours each way with traffic. Additionally, the golf team signed an agreement with Bosse Sports for the winter, moving their practices to Sudbury.

When BC’s bubble last sustained damage due to high winds in March 2010, other Boston-area universities allowed BC teams the use of their facilities. Jednak said that while he is not sure if a similar arrangement has been made this time, some teams are currently practicing in the Plex and Power Gym.


February 18, 2013

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