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  • Ta’Neeka DeMyers

Dealing with Cutler Gym Disaster

This spring semester, the athletes of Olivet College have been adjusting to the sprinkler head incident that occurred on December 29, 2019 inside the Cutler Athletic Center’s main competition gym.

Athletic Director Ryan Shockey posted a letter online on January 7, 2020 to inform the school and its alumni about what happened and how the gym’s “floor was damaged beyond repair” due to the water from the sprinklers bursting. The letter said that the sports teams needed to find a different site to play the remaining basketball games and have other (sports) practices this season. It said, “We felt it was needed to find a way to . . . not force our players and fans to go anywhere outside of Olivet for games and practices . . . there is not much work to do, but we will need to take the time to make it a safe environment for not only the players, but also fans coming to the game.”

When interviewed in person, Shockey said, “Our insurance company has been great, they helped us put money into Upton so the Upton gym floor has been completely refinished, and they refinished the MacKay floor so we can practice in MacKay.” He said they also changed the scoreboard light bulbs, and checked for functioning shock clocks and horns in Upton Gym to make sure it is “up to code” for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) because it has not been checked for 20 years. He said that the winter sports are impacted the least from the incident, but spring sports like baseball, softball, track, basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, and men’s volleyball are impacted the most. Shockey even said that there would be “temporary hitting cages” in MacKay for baseball and softball to practice. He said the project for repairs for Cutler’s gym should be done between the first or second week of March this year.

Men’s basketball player and senior, Keyon Rainey said since the basketball team had to play at a gym in Battle Creek (Battle Creek Central High School) for the first two weeks after the incident, they didn’t have their “own” locker room.

“It wasn’t really a home game for us so that was kinda weird.” Rainey said. He also said it was “really difficult” shuffling so much between the small gyms in MacKay and Upton. “To be honest, at first, I was kind of upset, but to play in Upton with like the small atmosphere reminds me of high school . . . more fans can come to it so it’s kind of exciting.”

Men’s Basketball Coach Samuel Hargraves said through email for his team, they “simply had to have fun at this point.” He said, “We’ve got to embrace Upton and make it our home. I’m excited for all our teams competing in Upton, and hopeful we can get great support from the campus with the central location and short walk over!”

Senior Noah Bailey, who runs track, said about his team, “. . . we don’t have a place to come and train in warmth so now we have to go outside . . . it displaced us. He said that in Cutler, “We would roll out the mats and I’d be able to practice long jump and triple jump, and the things that I needed. Now I can’t.” However, Bailey said the track team found a place called the Summit in Lansing that they go to on Wednesdays to train.

Junior and Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) member Crystal Lettinga, who plays women’s golf, said, “I guess we’re all adjusting to it very calmly compared to what I thought.” She said the Athletics Department was “very helpful coming back knowing there was gonna be a different game plan . . . that students had to work around each other and work together.”

Lettinga also said it is “easier” for a small college like Olivet to adjust. She said SAAC has to now plan where they are going to host the Ollies sports award ceremony this year, but there is still a “bright side” to this---it’s, something different---new location (for the Ollies), so it’s not the same thing every year . . . accidents do happen and that’s something that we have to move on from.”

Physical Plant Director of Facilities Larry Colvin said that a contractor for the Cutler gym repairs was chosen and that this project is being “handled properly” by an insurance company representative, himself, Shockey, Finance Director Mark DeRuiter, and the site superintendent from the original construction company called CSM Group. Colvin said, “The flooring itself is changing. We are going with a wood (maple) floor that is similar in appearance to the floor in MacKay and Upton Gym . . . also extending the wood floor to include approximately 75 percent of the surface.”

He said that “poured rubber” will most likely be under the batting practice area, “. . . also having protective cages installed around each sprinkler head to protect future damage.” Colvin said he hopes to use this situation to “help instill” significance for every student and employee that the “facilities” on campus “belong to all of us and we all have the responsibility to help in taking care of them.”

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