By Nick Curcuru
---- — What started as a nuisance has turned into a safety hazard, city athletic officials say.
The leaky roof at the Benjamin A. Smith Field House took a turn for the worse on Wednesday as the snow and rain mix that hit the area showed that several new leaks have sprung from the top of the school.
“We used to deal with it by putting down buckets, but it’s gotten to the point where it’s unmanageable,” Gloucester High School athletic director Kim Patience said Friday. “(On Wednesday) I put my hand underneath one of the leaks and I could have had a half cup of water in my hands within a couple minutes. It was gushing and new leaks appeared.”
Several buckets were spread all around the field house Wednesday to catch the water leaking from the roof. Buckets were set on both the hardwood basketball court, and the rubberized indoor track that surrounds it.
Fortunately no games were scheduled at the field house Wednesday or Thursday, so Patience did not have to cancel any contests, but the predicament did effect the Gloucester boys and girls basketball practices.
The two teams, who practice in the field house from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., respectively, were forced to practice on half the court, using two side baskets to shoot on and run drills.
During the BankGloucester Holiday Tournament in late December, a leak in the roof caused water to drip onto the court underneath one of the baskets during Gloucester’s tournament championship game with Manchester Essex. After a short delay, however, the game was able to continue as the dripping water was wiped up off the floor while the action was on the other end of the court.
“First priority was safety for the kids,” said Gloucester boys basketball coach Bill Cahill, whose team played on the field house floor Friday night. “We told them to stay away from the side of the floor where water was dripping.
“It was a tough situation, we couldn’t practice everything we wanted to practice,” he said. “The roof has been leaking for the last couple of seasons but I’ve never seen it as bad as it was on Wednesday.”
Patience said the leaks could also effect spring sports tryouts if they are not fixed by then. Given the amount of rain that falls on Cape Ann during the spring sports season, cancellations of practices or tryouts could be looming. As a result of the newfound leaks, however, Patience took pictures of the buckets lining the floor Wednesday and forwarded them to GHS principal Eric Anderson and Superintendent Richard Safier.
Patience said that, because of the new leaks, the city’s Department of Public Works will be sending a team over to the fieldhouse roof next coming week to inspect and estimate the damage.
The problem is also not new this year. Patience said she nearly had to postpone a Division 2 North First Round girls basketball tilt with Marblehead last February because of a leak in the roof.
In 2011, the city spent $4.5 million on a project for roof repair work on O’Maley School, the Dorothy Talbot Rink, Veterans School, East Gloucester School, Beeman School and Plum Cove School. But Gloucester High School and the Benjamin A. Smith Fieldhouse along with West Parish School, however, were left off the repair list.
Had games been scheduled this past Wednesday, Patience said, they would have be cancelled.
“Basketball coaches did what they had to do practicing on one end of the court, and track was off that day,” Patience said, “but I could not have let a basketball game or track meet go off with the condition of the roof. But if we get a rainy Tuesday or Friday with basketball games scheduled or a rainy day where a track meet is scheduled I would have to cancel.”
The issue could also effect the quality of the basketball court and track. If water continues to drip on the floor and track at the rate it is, the surfaces could be severely damaged.
“Sooner or later the rubber on the track and the wood floor will be ruined,” Cahill said. “It’s gotten to the point where something needs to be done soon.”
Nick Curcuru is the Times sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.