Though there were no reported injuries when one of the big panels cracked, the university installed temporary protective roofs over Coliseum entrances under the glass and blocked off pedestrian traffic from other areas where people might walk under it.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we determined to place awnings where pedestrians walk on the exterior of the coliseum, with fencing to direct them under the awnings, until such time as a final determination is made as to the cause of the glass breakage and it is rectified,” said UGA campus architect Danny Sniff in a press release.
The first glass panel cracked July 29, about seven months after the walls were installed. Choate Construction Company of Atlanta was the general contractor.
The most recent one broke June 27. Two others broke and were replaced last Aug. 17 and sometime during the Christmas season.
The walls helped win the UGA University Architects office the state’s top architectural award for the redesign of Stegeman. The renovated building opened to rave reviews in late 2011. Changes included adding 10,000 square feet on the concourse, giant murals on interior walls, more bathrooms and more concession areas. But the signature feature of the redesign was the soaring glass walls. The walls consist of 358 panels, each fitted into a metal frame in a way meant to allow for expansion and contraction as temperatures rise and fall.
Because the panes are safety glass, few fragments fell when the four panes broke, Sniff said.
The problem may be related to expansion and contraction — one of several reasons glass can break — but the construction company and UGA will bring in glass experts to find out for certain what’s causing the breakage, Sniff said. For some reason, the panels, each about 20 square feet, have broken in an area near the center.
Despite the glass problem, the Coliseum remains usable, said UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity.
“We wanted people to know why they are seeing awnings and fencing around the Coliseum entrances,” he said.
When it opened in 1964, the building was a livestock and rodeo arena as well as a basketball gymnasium. Hailed then as a place where the entire student body could gather, the building seats more than 10,000 for basketball games and other events. But it’s much too small for the entire student body, which has more than tripled to about 35,000 in the nearly 50 years Stegeman has been in use.
This is the second time a Choate Construction project in Athens has developed problems.
Last year, the Classic Center officials said faulty concrete and joints on the building’s 8-year-old downtown parking deck needed replacing at a cost of about $407,000. Choate was also the general contractor on that project, and pledged to help pay for repairs even though the job’s warranty had expired.
The deck remained structurally sound, but a subcontractor’s concrete mixing error caused tiny cracks to develop in exposed parts of the deck, Classic Center Executive Director Paul Cramer said at the time.