UCLA's Pauley Pavilion damaged as massive water main break floods campus
JUL 29, 2014 9:08p ET
A huge water main break near UCLA flooded the campus on Tuesday, spewing eight million gallons of water and likely causing major damage to Pauley Pavilion and the university's athletic fields.
The water had been flowing from a sinkhole on Sunset Boulevard for nearly two hours when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at 5:15 p.m. PT that it would take crews at least another hour to shut down the line, the Los Angeles Times reports. As of 7 p.m., the water was 90 percent shut off.
Water flowed into Pauley Pavilion, which in 2012 underwent a $132 million renovation, and water could also be seen inside the John Wooden Center, the J.D. Morgan Center -- which houses UCLA's athletic and administrative offices -- and UCLA's Athletic Hall of Fame, according to the report.
It's unclear how much water damage has been caused at the university's athletic venues, but early images posted to Twitter show some serious flooding.
Pauley Pavilion was renovated a couple years ago. Look at it right now. Court likely ruined. pic.twitter.com/mJuEUzDLXY— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 30, 2014
Here is a photo of UCLA men's basketball locker room. Flooding. pic.twitter.com/latTmyyCny— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 30, 2014
The quiet summer campus found itself suddenly steeped in water, stranding people in parking garages. The 30-inch, nearly century-old pipe burst under nearby Sunset Boulevard on Tuesday afternoon, sending water 30 feet into the air, opening a 15-foot hole in the street and inundating part of the campus that was soon swarmed with police and firefighters.
''Unfortunately UCLA was the sink for this water source,'' UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said.
The break came amid a historic drought when residents are now being threatened with $500 fines for overuse.
''We lost a lot of water, around 35,000 gallons a minute, which is not ideal in the worst drought in the city's history,'' City Councilman Paul Koretz said.
The flooding hit the part of campus that is home to its athletic facilities, with the greatest danger coming in a pair of parking structures that quickly began filling with water.
Firefighters, some using inflatable boats, saved at least five people who were stranded in the structures where more than 100 cars were stuck, city fire officials said. No injuries were reported.
Water cascaded to the entrance of Pauley Pavilion, considered one of college basketball's shrines since it was built in 1965, then poured on to the court named for legendary coach John Wooden and his wife Nell.
The floor of the arena, where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Reggie Miller and Kevin Love starred, was under at least an inch of water Tuesday night, and its locker rooms also were flooded.
''It's painful. It's painful,'' Block said. ''We just refurbished Pauley just a few years ago. And it's a beautiful structure. It's of course, a symbolic structure for this entire campus.''
Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said the floor would be cleared of water overnight and the damage assessed Wednesday.
The school may need to make contingency plans, but ''luckily we're not in the middle of basketball season,'' Administrative Vice Chancellor Jack Powazek said.
The other two campus buildings damaged were the Wooden Center, which has training facilities for students, and the J.D. Morgan Center, which houses the school's sports trophies, hall of fame and athletics offices.
Many students took the flooding in stride, walking calmly across campus with their backpacks in ankle deep water.
Paul Phootrakul of the UCLA Alumni Association, who was in business attire for an evening event, took off his dress shoes and dress socks, and rolled up his slacks in an attempt to wade to his car that was on the bottom floor of one of the flooded structures. Firefighters stopped him, saying the structure was not steady because of the weight of all the water.
''I don't have much hope for my car,'' Phootrakul said.
Some saw a chance for fun, pulling out body boards and attempting to ride down the flowing water.
Patrick Huggins and Matthew Bamberger, two 18-year-olds who live in nearby Westwood, said they were having a dull summer day until Huggins' mother told them about the water.
''It was about up to my thigh, and I thought this is a good day for a little dip,'' Huggins said.
The two shot video of themselves diving and splashing in the badly flooded practice putting green used by the golf team.
The 93-year-old high-pressure line of riveted steel pipe spewed a geyser of water for about 3 1/2 hours before it could be safely shut down without causing more damage, said Jim McDaniel of the Department of Water and Power.
Crews struggled to get to the area at rush hour, and they had to research which valves to shut off without affecting service, McDaniel said. Some water service was briefly interrupted but quickly restored.
There was no immediate word on the cause.
McDaniel said there was no ''magic technology'' to determine when a new line is needed, and the city is on a replacement cycle of over 300 years for main lines.
''Every city that has aging infrastructure has issues like this and we're no exception.''
Repairs to the pipe and to Sunset Boulevard were expected to last well into Wednesday, McDaniel said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.