Vandals damaged a lock and caused pipes to burst in Payne Whitney Gymnasium this weekend, leading to significant damage to the John J. Lee Amphitheater, Yale Athletics Director Tom Beckett said Tuesday.
By Monday afternoon, water was streaming through the squash courts, into the ceiling of the amphitheater, and through stairwells, corridors and lightwells into the basketball arena below. Below-freezing weekend temperatures caused a sprinkler head to freeze and burst, sending gallons of ice-cold water down the stairs and throughout the building.
The cold outside air entered the gym after the unknown perpetrators propped one of the gym’s doors open.
In addition to tampering with the lock and propping open the door, which is located at the top of a stairwell in an emergency passageway to the fifth-floor roof, the vandal or vandals destroyed or tampered with several locks to mechanical rooms on the roof. The mechanical rooms contain systems controlling heat to parts of the building.
Beckett said Tuesday that no severe structural damage to the gym had been discovered so far, but evaluation of the building is ongoing.
Beckett also said a police investigation was proceeding.
“The Yale police were there today,” Beckett said. “They’re looking into whatever possibilities there might be.”
Members of the Yale Police Department were unavailable for comment last night, and the police dispatcher on duty said she was unable to discuss the case.
The damaged area was off limits to students Monday and Tuesday, but Beckett said he hoped to resume normal activity, including team practices, beginning today.
The New Haven Fire Department, along with Yale coaches and staff, worked to contain the damage Monday and Tuesday. Because of the current strike by Yale’s Local 34 and Local 35 unions, many maintenance and custodial staff members were unavailable to help repair the damage.
Beckett said Tuesday he wanted to alert the Yale Daily News to the problems in order to answer the questions of people who had noticed the dampness in Payne Whitney Monday, had seen fire trucks outside, or had been unable to access the amphitheater due to the closings.
“We just wanted people to know about it,” Beckett said Tuesday. “They were asking questions throughout the day Monday and today, so we wanted to get the word out.”
Beckett said he expected the basketball court to be in working condition for the women’s basketball team’s final home games this weekend. Yale faces Harvard Friday night and Dartmouth Saturday.
“Thankfully, the court is going to be fine,” Beckett said. “We were concerned about that, but we feel right now that it’s going to be fine. We have a team of folks there trying to dry the area underneath the court and making sure everything will be fine for the game.”