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Temporary gym vandalized at Montana State University

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Posted at 1:17 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 11:43:00-05

In two days, a full year will have passed since Montana State University lost three gyms when heavy snow caused their roofs to collapse.

Since then, MSU has replaced them with temporary inflatable domes.

According MSU officials, someone may have tried to pop one of them.

If you take a look, you can see exactly what MSU officials are confirming.

Large boards or stitches are now plugging up slash marks on the North Dome sometime last Friday night.

Now this space -- used to replace the North Gym -- is closed, too.

“Someone overnight cut some slashes into the side, which of course caused us to jump into repair mode," says Michael Becker, MSU News Service director.

The large, inflatable domes, named the North and South Domes, are meant to help students exercise and more after their old gyms collapsed last February.

MSU officials say someone tried to pop one of them.

“It’s an inconvenience, for sure, and it has forced a couple of classes to have to relocate," Becker says.

Becker adds that comes at a cost: another “closed” sign.

“Our pressure is stable," Becker says. "We’re just, as an abundance of caution, we are keeping it closed until permanent repairs are made.”

“When I get here early in the morning, I hear people inside and I think the ROTC does their workouts in there," says Rob Maher, MSU professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Maher says during his 18 years here, the old gyms had become a routine for him.

The pop-ups are a good substitute.

Until this happened.

“I’m, of course, appalled to even think of that, that someone would decide to vandalize things," Maher says. "I’m hopeful that that would be repaired quickly.”

Moving quickly, it took at least several people to put these boards up along the south side of the North Dome to cover up that long slash that you see taken in a photo here but if you stop and listen, you can hear air.

But, as Becker says, there’s nothing to worry about.

“These domes have a lot of sensors inside of them so when the damage occurred, we got low pressure warnings relatively quickly thereafter and crews were over here right away," Becker says.

And while the dome has to stay closed temporarily, Becker says the structure is sound.

“We’re prepared for situations like this. One of the things that came along with the domes is training and how to repair them should something like this happen. It’s not unanticipated but it is unfortunate.”

Becker says contractors are expected to be working on permanent repairs now through the weekend.

At the latest, the dome should be back open by Monday.

As for suspects, none have been caught yet.

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Montana State University officials confirm the North Dome — one of the temporary replacements for MSU's snow-damaged gyms that were demolished last year — was vandalized Friday.

According to MSU, a person cut several slashes along the entire south side of the structure, as well as the south corner of the west side, some time Friday night.

Crews immediately closed off the building and patched up the damage after it was discovered Saturday. At no time was the structural integrity of the dome threatened, MSU officials said.

The university is planning to have a contractor permanently repair the damage this week and says no suspects have been identified or arrested thus far.

The North Dome will remain closed until further notice, and MSU aims to reopen by Monday at the latest.