In the matter of a few weeks, Patrick Gym has been transformed from a 1960s basketball arena to a temporary hospital ready to receive COVID-19 patients from UVM Medical Center. Like the teamwork that propelled the men’s basketball team to their fourth straight America East championship in March, a tremendous cooperation among many different players has brought this temporary hospital to life. 

It’s a second-use transformation that has been imagined for some time by state emergency managers — state officials have considered UVM’s Athletic Complex to be ideally situated as a possible emergency medical site. With the need to ready several potential “surge facilities” for COVID-19 patients, in mid-March, state and hospital officials approached UVM with an official request to use the Athletic Complex in preparing for the pandemic. 

UVM’s Physical Plant managers and hospital project coordinators decided which facility would be best equipped to support the anticipated patient surge. Once Patrick Gym was chosen, thinking far ahead of any other buildout needs, Telecommunications and Network Services proactively installed data infrastructure that allows UVM Medical Center to access its computer systems at the hospital. 

As building began, crews from Athletics maintenance and Physical Plant pulled up the turf at the tennis courts and prepared the floor for cleaning by Custodial Services. This was the first step in creating the “clean space,” where the hospital is storing unopened medical supplies, towels and disinfectants. Logistics crews in the clean space will organize all supply and food deliveries into the containment area of Patrick Gym. The Vermont National Guard brought in cots, and University Event Services provided all the tables and chairs. 

General contractor JA Morrissey, owned by UVM alumna Jeanne Morrissey ’81, built the temporary walls separating the “clean” and “dirty” areas and partitions between hospital beds, and the UVM lockshop rekeyed the doors. Benoit Electric installed the emergency generator and associated electrical services, assisted by SD Ireland and PC Construction. The Risk Management team worked with UVMMC to determine the proper protective gear to be worn into the containment area, should Physical Plant staff need to service a piece of UVM equipment. UVM’s fire marshal planned proper egress to keep the clean and containment zones safe from one another, and UVM Police Services developed a security plan with UVMMC. Cooking out of the Marketplace Kitchen, Sodexo is preparing to provide food to patients and staff. 

This quick work in preparation for the worst-case scenario comes with hopes for the best-case outcome — that Vermont’s COVID-19 rate will stabilize soon, that the surge will not materialize and Patrick Gym will not see one patient in its very ready facility.

National Guardsmen exit UVM's Patrick Gym

Vermont National Guard's 40th Army Band converted Patrick Gym into an emergency overflow ward. (Photo: Josh Brown)


Susan Davidson