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Track Bubble Collapses in Wind Storm


The Harvard bubble collapsed during a wet and windy winter storm on December 21. High winds caused a rip in one corner of the vinyl-coated nylon, air-supported structure, and within two minutes it was deflated.

The collapse occurred shortly before 1 p.m. Five runners who were on the track at that time, including author Erich Segal '58, escaped without injury.

Baarson B. Pittenger, associated director of athletics, said yesterday that the Department of Athletics hopes to have a new bubble up by early spring.

The new bubble will coast approximately $100,000, Pittenger said.

Officially known as the Farrell Intercollegiate Track facility, the bubble was the home of the indoor track team, and the winter work-out facility for most runners in the Harvard community.

The indoor track team will practice in Briggs Cage, on a flat dirt track that was prepared after the bubble collapsed. Overcrowding is expected when practices for other Spring teams begin, Pittenger said yesterday.

The Department of Athletics began to study plans for a permanent track facility in 1968, when the bubble was erected as a temporary structure, but no plans for the permanent facility have been finalized. Pittenger said that the collapse of the bubble "adds to the urgency" for concluding the study.

Largest of Its Kind

The bubble first opened in the fall of 1968, and was one of the largest air-supported structures in the world. It was 150 feet wide, 300 feet long, and 60 feet high. Three blowers heated the interior and kept the structure inflated.

The bubble, manufactured by Air Tech Industries of Clifton, New Jersey, was designed to withstand eighty mile per hour winds. The 1968 opening was delayed three months as tests were conducted to determine the soundest building material.

Financed by the Friends of Harvard Track, the $300,000 facility boasted a six-lane, one-eleventh of a mile banked Tartan track, with an 80-yard straightaway, as well as accommodations for field events.

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