Construction forces dining halls to close

The multiple Café 84 closures last week were caused by the ongoing construction of the McDonald’s Swim Stadium.

The dining hall was shut down for part of the day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after construction in the area shut off the hall’s hot water source.

Construction on the swim stadium began this semester. The stadium pool was built in 1984 for the Olympics and the construction will add a new sundeck for audiences to view swimming events and locker rooms for the water polo and swim and dive teams. Café 84 and EVK Restaurant and Grill were renovated during the summer.

The recurring problems arise from Café 84’s electronically controlled steam boiler that is located below the swim stadium, according to Kristian Klinger, the director of USC Hospitality.

Klinger said that it is a health and safety issue for dining halls to not have access to hot water and the cafe cannot be open until the problem is resolved.

The first incident occurred Tuesday after construction crews removed a poorly built flagpole footing that was attached to the natural gas line, according to Klinger. As the footing was pulled out, the gas line was ruptured and the heating system was turned off until the break was repaired.

The dining hall’s steam boiler was turned off again Wednesday when construction crews re-powered the lighting in the pool. An electrical short in the pool area had to be traced and corrected before the crew could get the heater functioning again.

As crews continued demolishing the footing and basement of the old swim building, vibrations from the equipment activated the steam boiler’s seismic valve and shut off the boiler. The valve detects any seismic energy, such as in the case of an earthquake.

Klinger said each incident was resolved as quickly as possible and that USC’s Hospitality department will work with construction crews more closely so that problems like these will not happen again.

“Emergencies do occur and we do our best to work through them in an efficient and effective manner,” Klinger said. “We are doing everything we can to avoid these types of issues in the future by continuing to work with our campus partners on ways to improve communication and collaboration and scheduling on future projects.”

Students, such as Jordanae Walker, a freshman majoring in political science, first learned of the situation when they saw the dining hall’s closed doors. Walker believes the alert system for dining hall closures should be improved.

“It was really inconvenient for me, and I wish they had at least given out some warning that the hall wasn’t going to be open,” Walker said.

Some students are concerned about the amount of planning and foresight that has been done on the construction project.

“The construction crews should really be more careful with what they are doing,” said Analisa Kleinman, a senior majoring in art history. “Students live right in that area in Fluor and Webb Tower, and it just makes me worry that they could make a mistake that affects more than just our dining halls.”

The EVK dining hall was also forced to close down a few weeks ago.

“The EVK closure on Sunday [Feb.] the 10th was due to a plumbing issue,” Klinger said. “Rust was coming through the water in every area except the dish room.”

According to Klinger, there is no indication that its closure is related to demolition ofMcDonald’s Swim Stadium.

Alisha Mathalikunnel, a sophomore majoring in psychology, hopes that these inconveniences will be worth it once the swim stadium opens in April 2014.

“Accidents happen when areas are under construction. It’s bound to happen,” Mathalikunnel said. “At least it will be nice once the upgrades are done and we are able to see events at the swimming pool.”