Robert Morris University's Golf and Sports Dome collapses on Neville Island

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Robert Morris University's Golf and Sports Dome on Neville Island collapsed this afternoon as storms moved through the area, a school spokesman said.

Wind gusts in surrounding communities never reached above 35 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service office in Moon, but an isolated area of violent weather on Neville Island pierced the canvas shell of the air-supported Golf Dome, according to Robert Morris University spokeswoman Kyle Fisher. The collapse took about 1 minute, she said.

"Our understanding is that a minimicroburst of weather swept up the river here, and basically it ripped a hole in the surface of the golf dome," said Ms. Fisher, the university's vice president for public relations and marketing. "The roof then deflated and the structure fell flat."

About 10 people, including four juveniles who were playing golf, were inside the dome when it fell. Six Robert Morris employees were inside, too, but everyone escaped without incident.

"Everyone was able to evacuate, everyone is safe," Ms. Fisher said. "There are no injuries."

The dome is held up by air pressure, which is maintained by a series of fans.

Firefighters, police officers and university employees continued to gather at the scene.

The facility is part of the university's Island Sports Center at 7600 Grand Ave., university spokesman Jonathan Potts said.

The National Weather Service office in nearby Moon reported wind gusts at 35 mph at 4:15 p.m., accompanied by rain that totaled 0.24 inches at 5 p.m.

The center is on 32 acres and is located nine miles from Downtown Pittsburgh.

The complex on the west end of the island opened in 1998.

The $20 million facility originally was funded by the Hillman Co. In 2003, Robert Morris purchased the recreational facilities and uses the complex for athletic programs. It includes two ice rinks and two outdoor roller hockey rinks, an athletic field, miniature golf course and batting cages.

Ms. Fisher said officials of the university, which owns and operates the dome, have not decided whether to repair it.

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Bill Schackner: or 412-263-1977. Liz Navratil: or 412-263-1438. First Published June 1, 2012 9:00 PM


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