Column: UConn has no room for error in Gampel roof renovations

After numerous delays, UConn announced Tuesday it would finally repair Gampel Pavilion’s peeling roof, with work slated to start in May and end in October. The Board of Trustees voted to delay the repairs last April, which were supposed to be completed by the time basketball season rolled around last fall.

We can only hope that the repairs are actually completed on schedule now.

Like any construction project, UConn has a habit of not completing things in the original allotted time or with the original proposed budget.

For example, the budget for the new downtown Hartford campus rose by $25 million in 2015. It’s supposed to open this fall, but the university has been working to relocate the campus since 2012. The original plan called for moving the campus downtown as early as 2013.

While nobody is certain if the new student recreation center on the Storrs campus hit some roadblocks in the preliminary phases before construction, I’d bet my bottom dollar that it will not be finished by January 2019.

Such is the case with these plans. With Gov. Dannel P. Malloy set to reveal the state budget today, everybody is anticipating that UConn will take more cuts. The university also recently unveiled a plan to replace and rearrange the baseball, softball and soccer fields, as well as the Freitas Ice Forum.

It’s fair to ask where the university will even get the money to do this with two big construction projects well on their way and budget cuts after budget cuts. But the point of this is not to talk about money, or even these other projects; it’s to say that UConn better not screw up the Gampel roof renovations.

They have to get it right for multiple reasons. For one, there are two basketball teams – both of which are kind of a big deal – that call Gampel home. If the renovations got delayed, not only would it prevent the building from being used, it would mean a mess of rescheduling and shifting around to the XL Center. And if we’re being honest, it’s an incredible inconvenience for the students.

Second, they can’t afford to spend any more money than they have. Not literally, but it would certainly put the university in a worse position if they had to spend more than the plan calls for. The renovations for Gampel are tough because you can’t reach the roof by traditional means. The nature of the dome actually makes it quite difficult to get any equipment up there for repairs.

Third, it’s kind of shallow to say, but UConn actually completing a construction project on time that was already delayed one year would be a good look for the university. With UConnstruction being the theme of the university for a while now, it would really, really help if students didn’t have to see chain link fences with lots of pretty pictures all over it instead of buildings and landscape for another year, especially at the beginning of a new year.

One can only hope that the rigid time constraints prompt a more efficient construction process that not only fortifies Gampel’s roof for a long time, but finishes before the 2017-18 basketball season.


Stephanie Sheehan is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus, covering men’s basketball. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan.