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Y. picks up after its flood

PROVO — As the flood poured into Brent Aldridge's basement office, the rising water lifted a plate of Halloween candy off his desk and carried it out the door, down the hallway and into a basketball coach's office.

Aldridge found the floating plate Nov. 5 after a broken water main flooded the Smith Fieldhouse at Brigham Young University.

The candy was dry — Aldridge thinks some of the emergency crews helped themselves to a piece or two — but the assistant volleyball coach's computer was ruined, along with scouting reports, all of his other files and everything else in the room.

Life is returning to the fieldhouse, despite a strong smell and ongoing renovation work. Classes, canceled on Monday and Tuesday, were back in session on Wednesday. The indoor track, popular with hundreds of Provo residents who run, jog and walk the blue-and-white oval each day, will reopen on Monday. So will the faculty weight room.

Quick action averted the biggest scare of all, that the basketball and volleyball floors might be ruined.

"We're going to save that floor," said Duane Sweat, supervisor of BYU's carpenter shop.

That's the good news. Even most of the bad news had a silver lining. The flood displaced BYU's top-25 women's volleyball team, but it's not like the players are homeless for tonight's final regular-season home match.

Instead, they will play in the Marriott Center. BYU is offering a "Flood Special" — tickets are just $1.

The team practiced during the week at the Marriott Center, where basketball coaches Dave Rose and Jeff Judkins helpfully rearranged their teams' practice schedules.

Perhaps the group experiencing the biggest disappointment was the top-25 women's soccer team, which was originally scheduled to host the first- and second-round NCAA playoff action.

The flood prevented the hosting duties because it wasn't clear if the fieldhouse would be ready in time. Then, BYU, playing on the road at the University of Utah, lost in a first-round upset to Weber State University.

But a cheery Aldridge, who also found a floating clipboard with bone-dry reports aboard, provided perspective about the soggy situation.

"It could be worse," he said, referring to the destruction and deaths caused by flooding from Hurricane Katrina. "All this is is an inconvenience for us. Our floor is saved and we'll be able to practice and we're playing in another beautiful facility, the Marriott Center. They're working as hard as they can to get our offices back to normal, or probably better than they were."

That's no small project. The carpenter, Sweat, said the area used to house racquetball courts. The courts were covered by other flooring and carpeting when BYU converted them into offices. Now the piled-up flooring and all the sheetrock is gone.

"We have stripped those offices right down to their foundation," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. "We've gone to exhaustive lengths to prevent mold."

The smell is the remnant of soaked carpets and laundry, she said, and has dissipated a great deal in one week. She expects it will disappear with time.

BYU officials don't know how much the renovation will cost, but the building is covered by an insurance policy held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns the university.

In the meantime, the displaced coaches are in temporary quarters at the new Student-Athlete Building. Aldridge's files were ruined, but all of the information was stored in unaffected computers. Some of the data on Aldridge's hard drive was salvaged and he'll get a new computer next week.

As for the once-imperiled candy, it's safe upstairs in the volleyball team's film room.


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com