RENO — University of Nevada, Reno, officials allowed the media to enter part of the blast-damaged Argenta Hall dormitory on Thursday and gave an update on how the university plans to cope with the loss of accommodations for up to 1,300 students for as long as two years pending repairs.
“Certainly we’re going to need to find housing off of campus to accommodate probably about 1,000 students or so,” UNR provost and executive vice president Kevin Carman said. Those efforts include turning double occupancy rooms into triples and renting rooms in Reno hotels and casinos, he said.
“All options are on the table and we’re considering a number of them at this point.”
Argenta Hall, the building where the explosion occurred, houses 750 students. Nye Hall next door holds 550. Both will be closed for all of the coming school year. Nye might re-open by fall 2020 and Argenta a year later, Carman said. The extent of damage and required repairs are still being assessed.
Eight people suffered minor injuries in the pair of explosions. The first ruptured a gas line and prompted the second, larger blast that blew out the first floor façade of the building, which houses a dining hall.
Those injured are believed to have been struck by flying debris after they evacuated the building following the first explosion, University Police Chief Todd Renwick said.
Building sprinklers doused any fire, campus officials have said.
The “non-structural damage that you see there that is substantial, but the buildings, I want to emphasize are intact, and they will be rebuilt,” Carman said.
Renwick led reporters through a portion of the damaged, darkened first floor cafeteria area of Argenta Hall, where large windows, nearly floor-to-ceiling, were blown out along with their metal frames. The building’s exterior faux-brick façade leaned precariously in places, peeled away in sheets from the seven-story building’s structural steel frame. The dorm opened in 2006.
Reporters were kept away from the area closest to the explosion due to hanging debris. The boiler where the explosion occurred is in the building’s basement.
Approximately 400 students were housed in Argenta for the summer. With the explosion coming one day after the July 4 holiday, the building was relatively unoccupied at the time. The university is working to return personal belongings to the students who were housed there and helping with counseling for both students and staff.
“I think it has impacted everyone differently,” said Dionne Davis, assistant director for residential life. “Whatever self-care you need, we’ve been encouraging people to take that self-care. If it’s going home petting cats, if it’s going to movies with hubby. For me, it’s holding and playing with my son.”
UNR has a FAQ page for information on the explosion and various campus and student services.