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PAC Closed After Minor Electrical Fire

By Henry Fisher | April 22, 2024

The University at Albany’s Performing Arts Center (PAC) remained closed last weekend after a small electrical fire on Tuesday, April 16. A notice from the University was sent out to students at 10:48 a.m. on Tuesday informing them of a “small electrical fire” and the temporary closure of the building. Subsequent notices have extended the closure, with the latest keeping the building closed through the weekend. 

The Performing Arts Center (PAC) on Wednesday, April 17 with caution tape and a sign.

Photo Credit: Henry Fisher / The ASP

University Spokesperson Jordan Carleo-Evangelist responded to an inquiry regarding the fire, saying, “The small fire that occurred Tuesday morning was in a bank of batteries that provide emergency lighting to the building (the lights that come on if the power goes out). The fire was small and contained to the cabinet that holds the batteries, but it created a strong odor throughout the building. No other buildings were impacted by the fire.”

Three notices were sent out by the University last week, each one pushing the date of reopening and noting that classes had been moved to alternate locations. The first was uncredited, while the second two were signed by Zach Newswanger, the Associate Vice President for Facilities Management at UAlbany. 

“We apologize for the inconvenience, and we appreciate your patience and flexibility while we take this additional time to deep clean the building, reset and test its emergency systems and ensure that the air quality is suitable for reoccupation,” Newswanger wrote in the final notice on April 17.

The final notice (as of publication) also reported on events at the PAC that were moved. The author reading with Julia Alvarez, the Ong-Rose-Farny String Trio, and the Choral Hour concert were moved to the Campus Center West Auditorium, while the Music Studio recital was moved to Page Hall on the Downtown Campus. 

The first notice from the University on Tuesday, April 16. 

Photo Credit: The University at Albany

“Facilities immediately began airing out the building today, but the batteries emitted some more smoke while a contractor was attempting to remove them this afternoon,” Carleo-Evangelist said. “That was a setback, but the Registrar’s Office had already identified alternate locations for Wednesday’s classes, so we were prepared to pivot.”

Hope Savercool, Manager of the University Symphony Orchestra, spoke on how the closure affected the organization – especially given its occurrence near the end of the semester. 

“The closure of the PAC happened at a crucial time for all of the performance groups as we have multiple shows coming up this week – we haven't been able to practice as a group or individually, as all of our instruments are being held in the building! I think the fire is a call to the university to update the PAC like they have done for so many other facilities on campus. We’re lucky that we’ll be able to perform next week and that no one’s instruments were damaged,” Savercool said in an email. 

Savercool went on to speak on changes to events meant to occur in the PAC, saying, “Thankfully, we were able to move this weekends’ guest performance and masterclass to the CC and Earth Science buildings, but this has been less than ideal since we weren’t able to get a piano to these areas so some groups could not perform. We are grateful for the University’s help to arrange such changes regardless of the setbacks.”

According to Carleo-Evangelist, three items remain for the University Facilities Management team and contractors: removing the old batteries safely, clearing the odor caused by the fire as much as possible, and ensuring the emergency lights the batteries powered are operational. 

“We’re grateful for the flexibility of faculty and students – and, as always, for the assistance of the Albany Fire Department. Their quick response combined with the quick work of our Facilities and Fire Safety staff helped ensure the impact on campus was as minimal as possible,” Carleo-Evangelist said.

More information on rescheduled events and updates on the closure can be found on the PAC’s website.


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