Water damage led to 10-foot crack in Portsmouth pavilion’s main mast, engineers say


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Back in May engineers discovered a big problem with the main support mast that holds up the canopy at the Union Bank and Trust Pavilion in Portsmouth. 

Since then concerts have been relocated for safety reasons, and on Friday 10 On Your Side learned how Mother Nature played a role in what went wrong, and what’s being done to fix it.

There’s a 10-foot crack in a main mast support. 10 On Your Side wasn’t allowed in the pavilion work zone, but the structural issue is clearly seen from across the pavilion site. 

You can see from the crack why the City of Portsmouth was so concerned. 

“The first two days it was moving and pulling apart from itself, so we engineered a structural base that is the gray brace around the main mast that helps stabilize it, and keeps things in place,” said James Wright, an engineer with the City of Portsmouth. 

It is fascinating what led to the crack: water in three of four mast poles. 

How did the water get there?

“We are pretty sure water got inside the structure then freezed and thawed, and then the pipe burst,” Wright said. “We aren’t quite sure how water got in at the moment … extreme heat we had last year,  and extreme cold we had this winter didn’t help at all.”

According to Wright, so far it’s only cost $200,000 to do all construction work to date.

10 On Your Side noted $200,000 seemed low, but Wright says that is the cost. We also noticed the easy part of the canopy has been removed. 

Now’s the tough, tedious part of cutting it free from what they call tendons, which are attached to the 13 sheets that make up the canopy.

Ironically, back in 2003 Hurricane Isabel shredded the pavilion’s single membrane canopy, so the city replaced it with a 13 piece canopy, so if there were a tear you wouldn’t have to replace the whole canopy.

As bad luck and timing would have it, the crack in the mast structure forced Portsmouth to take down the new and improved canopy anyway, and call off what was the entertainment season.  

The city still hasn’t decided if a new canopy will be put up, and if one is, what type it will be. As for the rest of the entertainment season, an answer on what will happen with the remaining shows could be known Tuesday.

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