LAWRENCE, KS -- Quick-thinking staff members at the University of Kansas recreation center (KU) helped prevent extensive damage recently when heavy rains and nearby construction caused two feet of water to flood the facility’s basement.

“Our creative student staff kept us from a lot of damage, and our maintenance and custodial staff got us back into shape very quickly,” says Mary Chappell, director of KU’s recreation services.

As water poured into the basement, student rec center staff members created a makeshift levee using nearly 1,000 workout and shower towels (costing an estimated $2,000) to redirect the flood waters. Their quick action prevented damage to electrical rooms in the basement, she says.

“We were very fortunate that we had alert staff and that we were here when it was happening,” Chappell says. “Staff has so much invested in this building that I am not surprised they responded in the manner that they did.”

Though the rec center staff is still assessing the damage, she says they will have to replace the 1,100-square-foot rock climbing floor, which consists of a foam base and top dressing. Chappell estimates the cost to replace the floor will run into the thousands of dollars.

Since the flood water receded in a few hours and the staff quickly soaked up most of the moisture, flooring in other areas of the center’s basement may not need replacing, Chappell says.

Flood waters flowed into the facility through an opening from a steam tunnel construction project nearby. The rec center basement has a room connected to the steam tunnels, and the water entered there. Chappell says the staff is looking into preventative measures to guard against future water damage.

“We are also looking at some future alarms and curbing systems in our steam, mechanical, electrical and IT rooms to provide additional protection for unexpected occurrences,” Chappell says.