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After The Blast: UNR's Plan For Housing Students, Rebuilding Damaged Dorms

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(AP Photo/Scott Sonner)

Structural engineers with experience responding to earthquakes and natural disasters are helping experts at the University of Nevada, Reno with efforts to rebuild this dormitory, in Reno, Nev., Thursday, July 11, 2019, where a natural gas explosion blew out walls and windows last week.

On July 5, two dorms on the UNR campus were rocked by a large explosion after the boiler in one of the halls was damaged, leaking natural gas into the building.

No one was seriously injured, but it was close – a crew of firefighters had been preparing to enter one of the buildings when the blast occurred. 

In the weeks since the explosion, university officials have announced they’ll be able to refurbish the two buildings and use them to house students again in the future. But that process is expected to take up to two years.

In the meantime, UNR will contract with the Circus Circus casino to house the 1,300 students displaced by the explosion.

Provost and Executive Vice President of UNR Kevin Carman told KNPR's State of Nevada the hotel is not attached to a casino and students will not have to pass by or through a casino to get to their rooms.

"It is not built as a dorm, but it will be a dorm because of its functionality," Carman said.

He said it is a very nice facility that was recently renovated. The double rooms will have queen-sized beds, flat-screen TV's and fridges. But they won't have access to room service or daily maid service.

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"It will completely rebranded," he said, "We're going to call it Wolfpack Tower. There's going to be a lot of silver and blue and it will be an extension of the university."

He also said there would be extensive security measures in place. Rooms will only be accessible with a key card. The elevators will also require a key card and the hallway to the elevators will be monitored 24 hours a day by university staff. A substation of the university of police will also be established on the property.

The tower is five blocks from campus, which Carman said is about a 15-minute walk, but a shuttle service will be established.

Food will be a lot trickier than housing, Carman said, because Argenta Hall - the dorm where the main explosion happened - housed the main dining hall for on-campus residents.

"We will be initially setting up a tent facility near another of our dormitories, Great Basin Hall, that will serve our students through probably the end of October," he said, "At which time, we will open up a more permanent facility."

As far as the actual buildings, Carman said the damage, although dramatic, wasn't structural. He and others at the university are just thankful there were no major injuries or fatalities.

"It could have been so much worse," he said, "The buildings suffered damage but we can replace buildings. We can't replace people."

Guests

Kevin Carman, Provost and Executive Vice President, University of Nevada, Reno

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