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Cali Owings, Published October 31 2013

VIDEO: After dunks tip off roof concerns, Concordia moves Christmas concert to Civic Center

MOORHEAD – When members of the Cobbers men’s basketball team started dunking left and right during practice in Concordia College’s Memorial Auditorium late last season, they suspected the hoop was too low.

“That’s kind of how it happened. We had guys that can’t dunk that were dunking,” said Athletic Director Rich Glas.

Sure enough, the hoop dipped about an inch below regulation height, prompting an investigation that revealed concerns about the roof’s snow load capacity.

That’s why Concordia College will hold its 87th annual Christmas Concert in the Fargo Civic Center. In addition, the concert has been pushed back a week later than scheduled to Dec. 13-15.

It’s one of the precautions school officials announced Thursday, giving the college time to further study the ability of the Memorial Auditorium roof to support uneven snow loads.

An Illinois engineering firm will visit Concordia to complete a structural analysis of the building during the week of Nov. 18, said Linda Brown, vice president for finance. Memorial Auditorium will be closed during that time.

Depending on weather and snow accumulation, Brown said it may be necessary to close the building for other periods of time.

School officials maintain that the building and its occupants are safe.

Built in 1952, Memorial Auditorium is home to basketball, wrestling and volleyball teams and several regional high school basketball tournaments. The athletic department and the offices for several coaches are also in Memorial Auditorium.

Wayne Flack, facilities management director, said the building’s age, condition and structure are not an issue. He noted a preliminary investigation found no signs of structural distress or overload.

He said their only concern is snow distribution and creating a long-term response to uneven snow loads on the roof.

Various factors affecting snow load capacity weren’t considered when Memorial Auditorium was built in compliance with 1946 building codes, Flack said.

“Snow load calculations now take into consideration unbalanced loads … unequal distribution, the composition and weight of the snow,” Flack said. “It’s a different study today than it was in 1946.”

He said the roof can still handle snow, but the November study will help to pinpoint a safe threshold for snow accumulation.

Eric Eliason, vice president for academic affairs, said the school will monitor snow and inclement weather just as it does to make decisions about late starts and class cancellations and will roll decisions about use of the auditorium into that planning.

“If and when we do need to evacuate or close the facility for periods of time, we will do it if there is even a remote concern about mounting snow loads,” Flack said.

Several upcoming music events have been scheduled in other venues.

In order to ease pressure on the roof, speakers, sound shells and scoreboards were removed from the auditorium. These changes also altered the acoustics in the auditorium.

A Nov. 17 PRISM concert will be held as scheduled in the auditorium because it won’t be affected by the acoustic changes.

Other concerts may still be held in the auditorium, said Tim Wollenzien, director of cultural events and music organizations. He said those decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Athletic events in the building will continue as normal except during the building closure or in the case of dangerous uneven snow loads.

Games could be postponed, moved to other venues or hosted by the opposing team.

A wrestling match on Nov. 20 was moved to the Olson Forum.

Glas said the department is in the process of making arrangements with other venues like the Fargo Civic Center and Minnesota State University Moorhead if teams can’t host home games in Memorial Auditorium.