Students returning to campus may notice a familiar sight missing from view next to Briggs field. The J. B. Carr Indoor Tennis center, known simply as the tennis bubble, was taken down last spring as part of an ongoing project to replace the structure. A new bubble will be in place by September 15, according to John B. Hawes Jr., MIT senior project manager.
While the structure may look the same from the outside, once it’s inflated, students on the inside will notice newer lighting, better insulation, and the addition of a skylight.
The changes also include a new fire alarm system for increased safety, accompanied by a new electrical system. The heating units, which had dated back to the original installation of the bubble, will also be replaced with heating elements that are more efficient and offer better controls.
The project also includes renovations to the head house, which sits at the entrance to the bubble. Besides the usual changes of a new carpet and new paint, the head house will be made more handicap accessible. A larger, second entrance into the bubble will be created, as well as a new handicap accessible bathroom.
The project was prompted by the collapse of the bubble during the winter of 2007. At the time, the dome was taken down and repaired, but according to Hawes, it was clear the structure was not going to last another full season.
Hawes does not anticipate any further disturbance to neighboring buildings, such as the planned power outage of Burton-Connor last Tuesday to provide power to the project.
The cost of the project is estimated to be a little over $1 million, which, according to Hawes, is much less expensive than building a permanent structure. Funding for the project was provided mostly by the Committee for the Review of Space Planning.
The last time work of this scale was done was in 1997, when a snowstorm on April Fool’s Day brought down the bubble. The timing was not all that bad though; MIT was already in the process of replacing the dome at the time the storm hit, so a new bubble was quickly put in place.