August 31, 2001
For many people fall is a time for light jackets and crisp evening walks. For Green Wave basketball and volleyball fans, however, the season has simply offered another reason to sweat. For the past 70 years, the Avron B. Fogelman Arena in Devlin Fieldhouse has become legendary not only as a venue for fine athletic performances, but also as one of the hottest, most humid spots on campus.
This fall, however, all that will change. "We will have air conditioning in the building by late September," says Chris Maitre, assistant athletics director for facilities.
For the last year, Maitre has overseen the project. "We are doing this primarily for the benefit of student athletes, for their safety and playing conditions," he says, adding that these issues have long been a concern, but the department was unable to fund a remedy until this year.
"The moisture that forms on the court from heat and humidity creates a hazard for players even in the latter months of the year," says Maitre. "When the humidity is thick, the humidity is on the floor. It almost looks like the players are ice skating."
In the past, the department used chemicals and mops to dry the floor, but the problem would often create delays in games. The athletics department has contracted with Gootee Construction to install an HVAC system. Since the building houses some air-conditioned administrative offices, chilled water pipes already exist at the location.
Basically, Gootee will be mounting the system on top of the roof and then connecting it to the chilled water and routing the interior duct work, says Maitre. The work will last about three to four weeks and should not interfere with practice or play of the volleyball team or men's and women's basketball teams, says Maitre. The volleyball team is currently practicing at the Reily Student Recreation Center and basketball practice doesn't start until October.
Maitre says that the new system will be able to cool the building even when filled to capacity (3,600 people). The unit will remain on, and a thermostat controlled by facilities services will govern the arena's temperature. "We may pre-chill before athletic competitions," adds Maitre.
Sylvester Johnson, director of physical plant facilities, says that the university reviewed Gootee's plan early on in the process.
"The system must be balanced with the rest of the campus," he says. "The instrumentation must be compatible. Everything will talk back to the central power plant."
Another benefit from air conditioning, says Maitre, "is that it will allow the building to be better sealed. In the past we have had floor fans circulate air. We've also occasionally left windows open for ventilation. Dust and debris would accumulate inside."
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