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Flooding in CPA frustrates faculty and students

A longtime flooding problem in the basement of the Center for Performing Arts is leaving shoes, equipment and performances soggy -- with no clear end in sight.

Interim Chair of the music department, Chris Tanner, says flooding has been an issue in the CPA since his time as a graduate student at Miami in 1993.

Music and theatre majors share the CPA and are familiar with the frustration that comes nearly every time there is heavy rain.

The student house manager for the theatre department, Grace Rosus, said flooding has caused numerous issues for their productions.

"When we did 'Wild Party' in 2017 there was a huge storm one night and I got texts from people in the pit [orchestra] saying water was dropping on their music," said Rosus. "I took a bucket to the pit and had to sneak onto stage during the show to give them a bucket. I also had to go up to the booth with an open umbrella over the stage manager so her equipment wouldn't get wet."

Senior theatre major Katie Boissoneault says rushing to move equipment out of Studio 88, located in the basement of the CPA, is a common occurrence for theatre majors.

"Literally there will be times in the basement where people will be like 'Who's not doing anything? It's flooding, we need to get everything out of 88.' It's a pretty common drill for people in the theatre department," said Boissoneault.

Some of her fellow theatre majors have had their shoes permanently damaged from the water that accumulates in Studio 88 after a heavy rainfall.

"I talked to my boss about it, he's been here for longer than I've been alive," said Boissoneault. "He told me that when he came here 30 some years ago this had been a problem."

Unfortunately, there usually isn't one simple fix for flooding said Cody Powell, Miami's associate vice president of facility planning and operations.

"The CPA has probably been the most difficult because we go through periods of time when we think we've addressed it but then something else happens," said Powell. "That's the one that I'm very intent on figuring out how to fix."

The main culprits behind the flooding, Powell says, are decaying pipes and a flaw in the way the building handles drainage.

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Currently, roof drainage is funneled into the building and then pumped back out by sump pumps.

"In this building, the roof drains go underground and back into the building underneath, then to a sump pump and it'll pump out," said Powell. "But, if something happens to the sump pump the water goes inside the building."

The sump pumps have often been the cause of flooding, but even after they were replaced, water would still find its way back into the building.

"We started experiencing problems again and found it wasn't the sump pumps, it was that piping under the building was starting to decay from the inside out," said Powell. "We cut up a portion of the floor, replaced the pipe and that solved it for a while."

Powell said they have set aside funding and initiated a design with an outside engineering firm to solve the issue by designing a way to waterproof the interior of the building.

"We are hopeful it will happen next summer, but it is a pretty disruptive project," Powell said.

Powell understands the frustration from faculty and students in the CPA and said the department is doing everything they can to solve the problem.

"The department deserves better and we understand that," said Powell. "It's not that we're avoiding it. We're trying to solve the problem, it's just unfortunately not a good design."