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Star Hill Owners: Support System Backfired on Bubble

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman viewed the damage first-hand on Monday.

The owners of the Star Hill Family Athletic Center on Monday said a steel support system mandated by the state was to blame for the collapse of its sports bubble.

Star Hill is located off Route 30 in the Tolland Business park near the Vernon line.

It is frequented by athletes of all ages from Vernon and several area towns. 

Jack Maloney, on of Star Hill's owners, said that some time between 11:30 p.m. Saturday night and 1 a.m. Sunday morning, the heavy snow from the weekend blizzard caused the bubble to flex just enough to tear on the steel support system and deflate.

"It just ripped," Maloney said. He went on to explain that the state mandates the support system to prevent a collapse onto people using the bubbles, particularly in a swimming pool.

But he and Mike Smida, another owner, said the policy is not universally enforced and several other sports bubbles were not required to install them. Smida said the beams would be coming down during the cleanup process.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, a Tolland resident who frequents Star Hill to watch her grandchildren play sports, visited the facility on Monday to see the wreckage first-hand. The bubble is sitting on the ground like a big plastic bag.

Wyman called Star Hill, a "community hub," something that Tolland has needed for years.

The Star Hill owners asked her to look into waiving the requirement for the support system before re-inflation. Tolland Town Manager Steven Werbner was also on hand to taken the the owners' concerns.

Smida said the artificial turf used for fields should be OK, but he doubts that scoreboards and other fragile pieces of equipment survived the collapse. He said some items like soccer goals and bleachers, could be undamaged.

Smida said the cleanup will involve shovels and wheelbarrows.

Maloney said if all goes well, the bubble could be open by Saturday, but Smida added the owners want to make sure all debris is removed first.

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