On Monday morning at about 8 a.m., the Sports Center Gym I and Gym II roof failed underneath the weight of the snow and ice accumulated from the winter storm that arrived on Reed campus.
At 2:38 a.m., Community Safety Officer (CSO) Cindy Beggs was notified that the sprinkler system had gone off within the Sports Center. When she arrived, Beggs “heard loud banging noises coming from Gym I,” which she later realized were the beams of the roof breaking. “As I approached the stairs leading to the entrance of Gym I, I noticed a lot of water flooding the floor and I smelled something similar to burning rubber/electrical so I exited the building and asked our dispatch to call emergency services for assistance.”
Beggs then contacted Matt Nantz, the maintenance on call person that night, who arrived promptly. Beggs then went to aid students locked out of their residence halls.
After turning off the alarm, and after the fire department arrived and ensured there was no immediate emergency, Nantz called Bryan Kelly, the building services night supervisor, to discuss the water flooding the gym. At this point, Nantz wasn’t aware of the structural damage to the gym: “I could not see the rise of the structural support, there was so much water pouring out you couldn’t see nothing but water.”
Later around 4 a.m., Nantz found Kelly at the Physical Plant Building, where Kelly informed Nantz that there was damage to the trusses and decided that no one should access the building. Kelly also informed Steven Yeadon, Director of Facilities Operations.
Kelly states that he did have some suspicions that the roof might collapse. “Because the dining tents. You know, we did what we could, to get the snow off those dining tents and it made those collapse before, so I was kind of thinking in that direction,” Kelly explains.
At this point, with the card readers turned off and signs letting community members know to not enter the building, the only thing left to do was monitor the situation. “Around 7:15 or so, I could hear popping or cracking from stress,” said Yeadon. At about 8 a.m., Yeadon noticed that the walls of the gym began to bow out, and the roof collapsed.
“The roof trusses gave way… I actually saw the roof come down, and it sort of traveled in a wave from the west side of Gym I up the hill towards and including Gym II, so both roofs collapsed at the same time. At that point we were just in a sort of crisis to secure the area… The walls were leaning out. We had to try getting people stopped, getting cordoned off so there was no one getting close enough to the building to be in the path of debris or falling walls or breaking windows,” said Yeadon.
It is difficult to assess the extent of the damage to the gym and what will have to be rebuilt. Yeadon reports, “The two gyms are a total loss. I don’t think there’s going to be anything there that we salvage. Right now, it looks like there is no extensive damage to the cardio room, the weight room, the outdoor center, any of that. But to the extent of the gym, entry vestibule, and the stairway leading down to that at the end of the corridor, there’s some things there that we don’t know yet because we just can’t get to it.”
This isn’t the first significant snow storm to hit Reed in recent history. February 2017 also saw snow loading on the roof of the swimming pool area, which caused a truss to fail. The truss was repaired in Spring 2018. “At that point, we decided that the structure was enough of a loss in the natatorium that we were better off to just take the whole roof down and rebuild the whole thing… there were several trusses in there that were either damaged or fatigued,” Yeadon states.
The gyms however, received a snow load of far more weight than the natatorium did in 2017. Yeadon said, “Here’s the sad story of it all: we had 1964 technology. We had calculated snow loads for the Pacific Northwest and we got a Minnesota snow load. It was outside the realm of our engineering.”
The snowstorm itself was surprising even beyond the roof collapse for Yeadon. “I’ve never seen snow and ice like this. I mean, even the snow that we had is not the typical snow that we get here. It was much higher in water content… and so this stuff was really heavy.”
This incident was only one part of a busy weekend for Facilities and Maintenance.
“Our focus was getting water off the roofs down to the ground, and then once it’s on the ground, away from the buildings…In the process of doing that, we’re keeping eyes on everything in the interior, we’re keeping eyes of the roof and making sure that the snow load is dissipating and going away, and that’s you know, in the middle of an event, that’s the best we can do.”
Overall, the weekend was a busy time for facilities and maintenance, but the incident with the sports center went without injury to students or community members. For Yeadon, “that was a successful outcome. I mean, that roof was going to fail, we weren’t going to stop that, but the fact that we got the warning when we did, we were able to secure this space off and make sure no one was in there and no one got injured. I’ll take that as a win.”
However, within the loss of the two gyms and the other facilities, there lies a “silver lining,” Yeadon states. “Once we get all of this sort of heavy lifting done in the beginning with cleanup and security and safety, we can — as a campus and as a community — we can really start talking about ‘what do we wish to have?’. I mean, those were built in 1964. Programming in 1964 was different than probably what programming wants to be in 2021, so it’s an opportunity to reimagine what the Sports Center might need, want, or be.”