Star Hill dome collapses, repairs progressing

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Tolland - posted Thu., Feb. 14, 2013
Workers busily remove snow from the collapsed 'bubble' on Feb. 12. Photo by Steve Smith.
Workers busily remove snow from the collapsed 'bubble' on Feb. 12. Photo by Steve Smith.

During the blizzard on Feb. 8-9, the dome at Star Hill Family Athletic Center collapsed, but the owners are sure that the facility will again be operational. As opposed to the dome being crushed by the weight of the snow, co-owner Mike Smida said it appears the damage was caused by heavy clumps of snow sliding down the inflatable, curved dome, tearing holes on the way down. Smida clarified, however, that he is not exactly sure how the collapse happened.

The current course of action is that staffers are first clearing the snow off of the collapsed dome, and will repair the two main rips near the steel stanchions. Once that is done, Smida said, they will start to put up the dome, which will enable them to assess other tears that may be there.

Smida said the collapse took place in the middle of the night, and no one was injured. He added that the dome is constructed so that a collapse would take time, and had people been inside, there would have been ample opportunity to get out.

“It's anywhere from a 30- to 60-minute process,” he said. “It's a very gradual deflation. Even if we were in full swing, and full of people, nobody would have gotten hurt.”

A back-up support system – required as part of the building code – hold cables which are intended to support the weight of the building in the case of a collapse. But, because of the way the roof fell, that system caused further rips in the roof.

Smida said there is no timetable for the dome to be re-erected, and the operation is day-to-day. He said other structural options are being looked into. “We're very much looking to do something different this time,” he said.

Meanwhile, the remainder of Star Hill's programs are running as they were. Some of the programs are moved into the complex's other building. Smida said the incident has given way to some creative changes in programming, including an underwater soccer program in the pool.

Smida said he has been touched by the outpouring of support from the community. He said many e-mails, texts and calls have been received, wishing the center the best as the staff makes repairs. “It's really been overwhelming,” he said. “It's really nice to hear.”

Star Hill is also posting daily updates on the dome repair progress on the front of its website,, and in e-mails to its members.

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