'Bearcat Bubble' adds practice space and energy savings on UC campus

The University of Cincinnati gained its very own 24/7 practice field with the addition of an air-supported "Bearcat bubble" for the cold winter months. Athletes now have the ability to practice year-round in the new 75-foot-high and 370-foot-long bubble covering the new Sheakley Athletic Complex.

"The football players are excited and grateful to have the opportunity to use it. It gives us the ability to practice all year round with consistent conditions every time you are in there," according to UC Associate Sports Communication Director, Ryan Koslen. The field also benefits other varsity sports such as soccer, baseball, lacrosse, and eventually track and field

Before the addition of the practice field and bubble, athletes had limited conditioning and practice space. During the winter months they only had the ability to condition inside with the weight-room facility and indoor track.

"The football team couldn't get out until the spring. During the winter months, they practiced outside when they could, " Koslen added.

The Bubble and field provides 72,200 square feet of usable indoor space for athletic programs but also allowed the school to build a chilled water thermal storage tank underneath the short field to assist the air conditioning systems throughout campus. The addition provides the University $750,000 to $1 million in energy savings a year and adds to the "greening" of campus.

According to the University project manager of the complex, Barrett Bamberger, the bubble is energy efficient and less expensive than a permanent structure. The dome consists of two layers that trap air between the two layers, which results in a 40 percent energy savings. Natural daylight also passes through the translucent outer layer, allowing the limited use of electric lights during practices.

Because the bubble is transportable, it will only be inflated from November through February, and will return to a normal open-air practice field in the spring.

Writer: Lisa Ensminger
Photography provided by UC
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