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Wisehaven deflated tennis bubbles in storm

Wisehaven Tennis Center is beginning its cleanup efforts after it was dealt a tricky situation to manage during the heavy snow Saturday.

The center's two air-supported structures that keep eight indoor tennis courts under a bubble of warm air began to bow under the heavy accumulation of snow. General manager Phil Myers, who was at the center alone during the storm, had to react quickly.

“We’ve always known that the snow is a tricky situation for us,” Myers said. “Normally we put the pressure and heat up, and the snow melts off the top which is fine. But with this storm in particular, we’ve never had any snow with this kind of intensity. It was coming down so fast that it wasn’t melting fast enough.”

The center accumulated more snow than it had previously dealt with, causing the bubble to bow. The ceiling, which is 30 feet off the ground under normal circumstances, came all the way down to 10 feet, Myers said.

Myers called engineers from Canada who had helped build the bubbles. They helped walk him through turning off the main and backup blowers to de-pressurize the bubbles. Typically, the center lets air out of an emergency door, but the door is located on the far side of the bubble, meaning Myers would have had to walk through the sinking dome. Instead, Myers let air out of exhaust panels, and when he did, the massive air flow nearly knocked him off his feet.

Luckily for Wisehaven and local tennis players who frequent the center, the bubbles did not tear. Seven or eight lights were crushed when the dome came down, but it could have been much worse, Myers said.

“If it was a small tear, we could’ve had to have someone from Toronto come down and patch it up, or we could’ve had to replace the whole bubble if it was worse,” Myers said. “It’s a bit of a mess. But we’ve had over 20 people here throughout the day clearing snow. We want to get one up and running by at least (Tuesday) night if possible.”