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February 24. 2013 8:36PM

With Bubble burst, Franklin Pierce University readies its backup plan


Franklin Pierce University Northfields Activity Center, known as "The Bubble," will remain closed until early summer. (COURTESY)

RINDGE - The Franklin Pierce University Northfields Activity Center that was damaged and deflated in the Feb. 9 blizzard is months away from reopening, university officials said Thursday.

The university's insurance company assessed damage to "The Bubble," and said a new fabric shell would replace the punctured one. The former shell was made out of a synthetic plastic material and held up by a constant air flow between an outer and inside layer of the material.

"Due to the complexities of manufacturing a new shell, removing the old one, inspection of the flooring and equipment contained within, and the possibility of needing to replace the floor, the university expects full use of The Bubble by early summer; costs will be covered by the institution's insurance policy," the university said in a release.

In the meantime, the university plans to install a temporary heated weight room on campus that would be large enough to accommodate students and would also be outfitted with cardiovascular equipment. The interim fitness center is planned to be on campus and open to students by March 25 and is to remain until the end of the academic year, which is May 16.

"We are making every effort to ensure that services are not disrupted and that work on the new Bubble takes place as quickly and efficiently as possible," Dr. James F. Birge, president of the university, said in a statement. "Our staff has been working very hard to make all the necessary arrangements, and our insurance company has been very responsive."

The university is also busing student athletes to alternate practice locations and opening other facilities on campus for sports and student recreation.

"Although this has been a physical setback in terms of programming space, this deflation has not deterred us from offering as many recreational opportunities to the campus community as possible," Campus Recreation Director Doug Carty said. "We've engaged adaptive thinking to create new activities and more productive use of alternate spaces on campus, and are grateful to other departments for housing our intramural and open recreation programs during this transition."

He also said university staff has been contacting community members who have Bubble memberships to offer refunds or extensions. His department can be reached at 899-4382 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily to answer questions.

"When the new Bubble is completed, the university anticipates a rapid resumption of full recreational services offered to local community members as well as its students," Carty said.

mpierce@newstote.com


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