Robert Morris University's Golf Dome to reopen by end of month
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Contractors on Wednesday will reinflate the Golf Dome, which collapsed in a storm last month with golfers and employees inside the Neville Island facility.
No one was injured when a sudden, powerful downdraft, known as a microburst, tore the side of the polyvinyl structure open, causing pressure inside the dome to drop and the Robert Morris University building to fall to the ground June 1.
The side that ripped is being replaced with a new panel, and Worldwide Air Structure Assistance Inc. will then turn the dome's ventilation system back on to reinflate the space Wednesday, said Jonathan Potts, an RMU spokesman.
Mr. Potts expects the 240-foot-wide, 350-foot-long and 70-foot-high structure to take between three and four hours to re-inflate. The dome will reopen by the end of the month.
The dome houses a driving range, miniature golf course and office space and is rented out for various events.
"There are going to be a lot of inspections and safety checks before we reopen to the public," Mr. Potts said.
University officials, the school's insurance company and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation in the days after the collapse.
Mr. Potts said they determined that the microburst was the single cause of the incident -- an exceptionally rare "freak accident."
In other cases where similar inflatable domes have fallen, it is usually the result of heavy snowfall weighing down the top of the structure, he said.
"We wanted to be deliberate and we didn't want to rush," Mr. Potts said. "We're going to be continuing to use the same caution when we re-inflate the building."
Mr. Potts declined to state the cost of the repair or the lost revenue from closing the facility but said both are covered by the facility's insurance company. Some events have been rescheduled and others were held at different locations within the sports center during the closing.
The Island Sports Center opened in 1998 and the Golf Dome, made of a fabric called Tedlar produced by DuPont, was installed in 1999. The structure was built to withstand the force of the hardest hit golf ball at the facility's indoor driving range. Mr. Potts said this was the first time the dome collapsed since RMU purchased the center in 2003.
First Published July 10, 2012 12:00 am