HAYS — The Kansas wind blowing a steady 30 mph like it did Wednesday is partly why Roofmasters, of Hays, is replacing the copper roof on Gross Memorial Coliseum.

Nearly 50 years old, the roof was installed when the multipurpose arena on the Fort Hays State University campus was built in 1973.

The roof is now worn out, said Andy Littrell, foreman of the Roofmasters crew doing the work.

“That copper roof was all original. We’ve made repairs and I know High Plains (Roofing) made repairs,” Littrell said. “It’s been fixed and fixed and fixed. Over several years, like today, the wind has just loosened up all the copper.”

Roofmasters started replacing the roof about 45 days ago.

All the original copper is being removed, sold for salvage and replaced with steel. The crews are about one-third done with the $980,000 job.

“We’ve got quite a bit to do yet,” Littrell said.

The roof top of the octagon-shaped arena is rubber, with copper covering its eight massive sides, some sloping and some straight, he said. Copper was chosen for its longevity.

“This is a good roof,” said Littrell, explaining that the technology at the time, a batten cap system, is still in use today but with a new twist.

“There are no horizontal seams in this new roof,” Littrell said.

The original copper roof had horizontal seams every 10 feet. The steel comes in a coil.

“We put it through a roll former, and it roll forms the panel right here on site,” he said. “We can make those panels as long or as short as we want, to make them whatever dimensions we need.”

The straight sides are 32 to 33 feet in height, while those on the 13-12 sloping sides are about 54 feet tall.

“The horizontal seams are typically where the failures are. That’s where the leaks start to develop first; that’s where you get your wind failures,” Littrell said. “Like with the old copper roof, they had problems with the horizontal seams. The wind would lift them, fold them, and then they would start to crack.”

FHSU opted to let the contractor salvage the copper roofing and was given a credit of $92,000 for that material, said FHSU spokesman Scott Cason, chief communications officer.