Kelsey Carlo, Staff Writer
The Todd and Jen Hutton Recreation Center or as many call it, the Hutt, is set to re-inflate by mid-November and the doors should be open by the end of December.
As we know, this past March, historic Storm Stella swept across campus and the dome didn’t make it through.
The dome is the second largest facility of its kind in North America and features an eight-lane, 200-meter NCAA regulation indoor track. There was an artificial turf field, four courts used for basketball and tennis as well as an area for weight lifting, locker rooms and batting cages.
According to Utica College Athletic Director Dave Fontaine, the new dome fabric is currently being manufactured.
“The fabric is in the process of being made. It is completely custom so it is taking some time, but it is expected to be here mid-November,” Fontaine said. “Since this is all new construction, there may be challenges, so no dates are concrete right now.”
Several changes will also be made to the dome to help prevent any damages in the future.
“The new structure is going to be peaked higher, approximately 95 feet as opposed to 80 or 82 feet,” Fontaine said. “The cable system inside is going to be different and there is also going to be a visible venting system to heat the dome and help melt the snow off.”
When the dome went down, the first thing that needed to be done was to cut all the existing fabric out and assess the damage inside.
“The full investigation of damages is still ongoing, but it was reported that the basketball hoops and soccer goals were completely destroyed,” Fontaine said. “The turf, storage and most of the south wall were not salvageable, but luckily, the track equipment was able to be spared. The bleachers have also been repurposed to the baseball field, and we are looking to expand the weight lifting area.”
Various sports teams, specifically men and women’s track and field, were impacted by the loss of the dome, which led to relocation of practices.
“When we lost the dome many of our neighboring schools such as Hamilton College, MVCC, and SUNY Poly were very helpful with letting us use their facilities,” Fontaine said. However, in the beginning UC had to rent Accelerate Sports Complex and Field of Dreams Sports Complex.
According to Fontaine, the athletes used UC vans; therefore, they rarely had to obtain large buses for transportation.
Gil Burgmaster, Associate Athletic Director for Sports Information and External Relations, expresses the ease of adjusting without the dome.
“Although it was sad to see the dome go down, we were still prepared,” Burgmaster said. “We just reverted to how things were prior to us having the dome.”
The collapse of the dome happened during spring break, so luckily the building was empty.
“This was an event that was out of our hands and we are lucky no one was hurt,” Burgmaster said. “Everyone, the athletes and coaches have been great through this all. We made it work once and we can make it work again.”
Nikki Zizzo, a junior on the women’s track and field team, expresses how essential the dome is to her and her team.
“I cannot be more excited to have the dome back because we can finally train properly for the Empire 8 title. We just want our home back because without it, the track and field team has nothing,” Zizzo said.