The University of Northern Iowa’s McLeod Center is temporarily closed after a small fire broke out inside the new arena Wednesday. The fire apparently started by a spark from a welder who was working inside the still-unfinished arena. Fire crews were called to the McLeod Center shortly after 10 A.M. yesterday after dense, brown smoke filled the building.

A university official says a construction worker was welding a metal plate onto the catwalk for a safety measure when the spark ignited a masonite panel. The fire was contained to a small area on the upper level of the arena, and firefighters were careful not to damage the basketball court or the lower-level offices. Authorities are assessing the amount of damage.

The 26 million dollar arena, which opened last fall, houses UNI’s basketball, volleyball, and wrestling programs. School officials say the facility is expected to be cleaned and operational by the beginning of next week.


Audio: Elwin Huffman report. :43 MP3