A 153,000-square-foot indoor sports complex at 5335 Racine Ave. in New Berlin saw a large part of its roof collapse on Tuesday night during a flash flood warning.
As many as 50 people were inside the two-story structure when the roof in the southwest corner of the building, where basketball and volleyball courts were located, caved in during torrential rain fall.
None of the people inside the structure were injured, and games scheduled for that evening had been called off, New Berlin Fire Chief Mark Polzin said Wednesday.
The people inside the building were located in various parts of the structure, and most had self-evacuated by the time fire crews arrived on site around 7:47 p.m., he said.
“They smelled natural gas, so they turned off the gas to the building,” Polzin said. “We were then within four minutes of dispatch, and within five minutes the building was determined to be cleared. We secured the gas utilities and had We Energies de-electrify the building. We stayed on site and worked with the city engineer to assess the damage.”
As of late Wednesday morning, Polzin said he was not sure anyone had been in the building, as it was unclear if it was secure enough to enter.
Constructed by Kahle Builders, the building was just completed in September of last year, making it less than a year old. Although the building is dubbed the OAW Sports Complex (after the Orthopedic Associates of Wisconsin who have a clinic there), Waukesha County property tax records show that the building is still owned by a limited liability company affiliated with Kahle Builders.
Calls to both Kahle Builders and the Orthopedics Associates of Wisconsin were not returned on Wednesday.
A view from the parking lot of the facility on Wednesday, showed what appeared to be the second-floor substructures heaving down into the building’s first floor.
“The owner has a structural engineer assessing the building,” Polzin said. “Similar to the construction process, they are going to have to work with the city and the engineer to figure out what to do.”
Located at the corner of National Avenue and South Racine Avenue, less than a mile from an Interstate 43 exit, the site of the sports complex was previously long home to the vacant and blighted Prairie Hill School building.
New Berlin City Officials approved the razing of the school and the construction of sports complex project in the summer of 2020.
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