NEW BERLIN – Nearly six months since a river of rainwater sent its roof crashing down, the OAW Indoor Sports Complex has fully reopened to the public after weathering more delays.
As its first order of business, the New Berlin complex’s ownership group sought to ensure any wary guests that the facility, 5330 S. Racine Ave., is physically fit and safe after months of revamping a roof system that failed in early July, just nine months after the complex’s grand opening.
“Rest assured that Ethic, and its partners, have taken appropriate action to repair the roof and prevent a situation like this from happening again,” Ethic Indoor LLC said in a Facebook post announcing the complex’s reopening on Dec. 29.
In the post, Ethic also said it would not provide further details about the recent roof problems, citing the prospective legal claims.
What caused the roof to collapse?
In the Facebook post and on the complex’s website, Ethic confirmed earlier reports by the New Berlin Fire Department, which suspected water buildup on the roof largely contributed to the collapse of the southwest corner of the building during torrential rains on July 5.
“We want to reassure the public that there has been a complete, thorough, and independent, professional investigation regarding the cause of the roof collapse,” Ethic said in the social media post. “During the investigation it was revealed that there was an inadequate roof drainage system, and the weight of additional rainwater resulted in the partial roof collapse. The issues that caused the rainwater to pool have been identified and resolved with the installation of an entirely new, robust roof drainage system that includes a secondary drainage system (overflow).”
The post also alluded to a “legal claim,” on which Ethic officials did not elaborate. Since July, there has been some private speculation about who might be held accountable for the collapse of a roof and building so soon after its October 2021 opening.
The damage was severe enough to force the owners, Aaron Kahle and Joe Mallinger, to come up with a rebuilding plan, submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. In September, they announced the facility would reopen in phases, beginning in November with parts of the main floor and all of its indoor fields. But, according to programming announcements, very few activities were planned at that point, and it’s unclear if the those plans came to fruition.
Kahle has not returned phone calls seeking an interview on OAW Indoor Sports Complex’s reopening.
Programming is again in full swing
Regardless, the roof disaster has been replaced by a flood of activities at the center early in January, following the facility’s official reopening. Youth sports camps, adult group fitness classes and the return of sports leagues were among those announced in a string of Facebook posts during the first week of the new year. (A full schedule of winter programming is available at the OAW Indoor Sports Complex website.)
The sports leagues — which make use of the football/soccer fields and baseball/softball diamonds that dominate the OAW complex’s main level and the second-floor basketball courts — include a 12-team winter high school baseball league that runs from Feb. 11 to March 11.
Located where National Avenue crosses over Racine Avenue in New Berlin, the 153,000-square-foot multisport training facility and competition center was the brainchild of Kahle, working with professional partner Mallinger. Together, they redeveloped the site of the former Prospect Hill School, which stood vacant for 13 years.
In the days leading up to its opening 15 months ago, Kahle, who also owns New Berlin-based Kahle Builders LLC, acknowledged he made dozen of revisions to the facility’s design before construction began, something his architects “weren’t too excited about,” to create a place consistent with his dreams. In the end, he wanted to use the facility himself, along with his family.
“I am one of those owners that just wants to come here and play with my kids and not necessarily be known as the owner,” he said at the time.
First marketed as the Ethic Sports Complex during its development stage in 2020, the facility got a new identity tied to its largest tenant, Orthopedic Associates of Wisconsin, which runs a physical therapy center there and paid for naming rights. The facility also has other program partners tied to music, education and organized sports teams.