Kelsey Carlo, Staff Writer
RThe Todd and Jen Hutton Recreation Center, the dome for short, is set to re-inflate within the next week and the doors should be open by Feb. 1, according to the Director of Physical Education and Athletics David Fontaine.
According to an email from President Laura Casamento, structure “will re-open to the UC community and visitors during the early part of the spring semester, after the installation of the new track flooring and turf is complete.” This past March, historic Storm Stella swept across the northeast, bringing several feet of snow and collapsing the dome in the process.
“I’ve waited eight months to share with you the following words: the dome is back!” said Casamento in the campus-wide email.
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 Daniel Bollana, executive director of facilities operations and planning, the new fabric has been laid out since last week and the new dome will be erected to more stringent building codes.
“It will have a different cabling system; web design versus the previous design which will provide more rigidity,” Bollana said. “Under snow and higher wind loading, the dome will be capable to inflate to a higher pressure than the previous one.”
Bollana said there is a new addition to the dome that should with purpose of protecting against ice and snow shedding.
“There will be a specialty heating system which will help melt and shed snow that might collect on the surface of the dome,” Bollana said. “After the dome is inflated, work on the inside will begin with insulation, lighting, electrical, mechanical and then all the floor preparation and installation.”
Additional updates include an expanded weight room, athletic training area and a higher peak height at 95 feet.
Since the dome has been down for roughly eight months, many athletes and coaches have had to relocate in order to fulfill practice needs. Softball and baseball have had to utilize Accelerate Sports in Whitesboro, while track and field have been utilizing Hamilton College’s facility.
Fontaine explains that prior to having the dome at Utica College, the athletic staff had to juggle scheduling teams around each other with the facilities they had.
“The coaches and athletes have been very supportive and understanding throughout this unfortunate event,” Fontaine said. “These things happen, and I just want to thank all the staff, coaches and athletes for their patience and their ability to work together to make it all work out.”
Jenessa McCabe, a junior on the women’s track and field team, explains the struggles her team has had without the dome.
“It is difficult because we don’t have a central practice area where one could see every track and field athlete at the same time,” McCabe said. “However, our team has not let this tough time get in the way of our training or team spirit. We still work just as hard if not even harder knowing we have to make up for the dome being gone.”
McCabe said that she is very confident that the dome won’t go down again. Overall, McCabe and her team can’t wait to finally have their home back after almost a year.
“I actually saw them testing the inflation at practice one day, and I instantly felt a rush of excitement,” McCabe said. “I consider the dome to be a second home, and it means so much to have a place our whole team can call our own. I can’t wait for all that our team can accomplish in the dome this year.”