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The Indiana-Iowa men's basketball game was postponed Tuesday after a piece of metal fell inside Assembly Hall.

Metal piece falls in IU arena; no one hurt, game postponed

Indiana University officials said they felt fortunate Tuesday that no one was hurt when a decorative piece of metal crashed into the lower bowl of Assembly Hall.

The approximately 8-foot-long, 14-inch-wide, 50-pound piece fell onto a seat in the northwest corner of the university's basketball arena Tuesday afternoon, about 6 1/2 hours before the Hoosiers were to play Iowa in a men's basketball game. The Big Ten Conference game scheduled for 9 p.m. was postponed, and no makeup date has been set.

"This glass is half full because nobody got hurt," IU athletic director Fred Glass said at a news conference Tuesday night that was also attended by men's basketball coach Tom Crean and Thomas Morrison, the university's vice president for capital planning and facilities.

"All of this other stuff is manageable, and thank God we are not here talking about a really serious situation. If it had to happen, I'm glad it happened the way it did. We are taking it extremely seriously. The safety of our fans, players, visitors is paramount in our mind, and everything else takes a back seat to that."

Glass said the metal that fell was a facial panel and did not serve a structural purpose. There are four steel platings running from the corners of Assembly Hall to the middle of the roof, and the piece that fell appeared to have popped off because of an extreme amount of snow and ice that settled into a curve in the roof, according to Glass and Morrison.

The damaged area was reviewed by the university's chief engineer and two external structural engineers from Fink, Roberts & Petrie, which is handling the planned renovations of Assembly Hall.

A new roof was installed three years ago and was inspected within the last year, Glass said. The university expects to hold its women's basketball game against Michigan at 7 p.m. today as the seating not in the corners has been deemed safe.

The university will inspect the damage more closely when a 100-foot lift arrives from Indianapolis and a decision should be made this afternoon on what can or cannot be done in the arena.

"We will go up there and visually and physically look at all of those facial panels, and if they need to come off, they will come off," Morrison said. "We feel comfortable with the women's basketball game (tonight) given the constraints in the seating, because we have the problem fairly isolated."

The Indiana Pacers offered the use of Bankers Life Fieldhouse for tonight for IU and Iowa to play Tuesday's scheduled game, but Glass said the logistics of moving the game could not be managed in a 24-hour period.

The Hoosiers have two more scheduled men's home games, against Ohio State on March 2 and Nebraska on March 5. The final women's home game is scheduled for Feb. 27 against Illinois.

The university had already planned to renovate the 17,472-seat arena. "It probably underscores the value of even more detailed structural review here, not only on something as dramatic as what happened today, but stress tests on our HVA system, our electrical system, our fire alarm system, all those things," Glass said. "We're grateful that we can move forward with that."

tkrausz@jg.net

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