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Despite repairs, Chavez Center continues ‘sweating’

December 2, 2016

Leaks continue to plague the city’s Genoveva Chavez Community Center, where costly replacements of dehumidifiers and roofing haven’t solved a persistent problem with water dripping on the fitness area and gymnasium floor.

Buckets, damp towels and caution signs lined one side of the gym floor this week, and employees moved exercise equipment and cordoned off a section of the weight room to prevent gym users from slipping or getting sprinkled by the indoor rain.

“It’s literally like the building is sweating,” center manager Liza Suzanne said after stepping away from an area in the weight room where water had dripped on her interviewer.

Since the south-side center opened 17 years ago at a cost of $25 million, the city repeatedly has tried to fix moisture problems in a building that includes both swimming pools and an ice rink among the indoor facilities.

In October 2010, the City Council approved spending $500,000 to replace a dehumidifier system that didn’t perform as expected. That money also covered costs of repairing air conditioners, roof modifications, electrical system repairs and pigeon control.

In recent years, the city has replaced roofs over the ice rink’s mechanical area, the fitness area and a therapy pool.

Last year, the city shelled out another $1.2 million to install a new dehumidification system and ductwork for the natatorium, or pool area, to deal with recurring moisture problems.

The new dehumidifiers and ductwork are working as intended, “which was to regulate the humidity in the natatorium,” said city spokesman Matt Ross.

“It had been our hope that they would also help alleviate some of the issues in the rest of the building,” he said. “We think they’re helping, but obviously, the problem isn’t completely solved.”

Suzanne said of the recent work, “Had we not done it, it would be much worse.”

Suzanne and Ross said administrators think they know what causes the condensation but are still evaluating options after bids for some additional possible improvements came in “much higher” than budgeted.

“It’s a metal roof, so when you have a metal roof and it’s warm on the inside and cold on the outside and there’s humidity, it creates a natural dew point,” Ross said. “It creates that condensation.”

Parks and Recreation Director Rob Carter said he hopes to get the problem “taken care of right away” to prevent more damage. “Once you get condensation that accumulates underneath a wood floor, for example, then it could be even worse,” he said.

Carter said the city’s Facilities Division is actively working with a contractor to try to come up with a solution.

“One of the ideas has been to possibly put ceiling fans into the gymnasium so that it circulates the air and keeps it from sitting up near the ceiling, which then with the temperature inside and the temperature outside causes condensation,” he said.

For the time being, Carter said, the facility will remain fully open.

“Right now, staff is cleaning it up,” he said. “But if it gets worse, we may have to shut those areas down if it gets bad.”

The water dripping from the ceiling didn’t seem to keep people away.

“I’ve always been true to this place,” said 17-year-old Devon Rivera, who was one of several people lifting weights one recent day. “As far as the bucket situation goes, it’s never been a problem for me personally. I can just work around it.”

Nathaniel Lopez, 18, said he has been going to the center for about three months and the water falling from the ceiling didn’t bother him much.

“It’s a nice gym,” Lopez said. “I would come back, even if they have buckets, but I would hope they fix it.”

Suzanne said a high school basketball tournament scheduled at the center this weekend is in limbo. She said the center has been trying to figure out the best temperature setting for the interior of the building to reduce the condensation.

“We’ll see how it is by Thursday,” she said. “Safety is our top priority, so if we have to, we’ll have to close or cancel.”

On Wednesday, Desert Academy’s athletic director announced the cancellation of the High Desert Classic boys and girls basketball tournament, according to an email.

The moisture problem has led to the cancellation of some sporting events in the past, including indoor soccer league games and volleyball club matches.

While the city has spent millions of dollars on repair or replacement projects since the center opened, Suzanne said the investments have been worthwhile.

“Almost 2,000 people a day walk through here, so it’s a service to the community,” she said. “Money pit or not, I feel like what we’re offering to the community is invaluable. It’s priceless what people can do here.”

Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 505-986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.