Lauren Cuddihy is a member of UAA’s track and field team.
Ten months after the collapse, The Dome is finally standing and inflated just in time for the first couple snowfalls of the year.
In late September and early October, workers and volunteers worked tirelessly to remove snow and debris from the fabric, then drag the heavy material around in order to connect them at the seams.
Once The Dome was standing, CEO Curtis Penney had officially announced that the building would be open to the public by early November. This was pushed back from the original speculation that was announced last spring, stating The Dome would open in late summer. However, similar to the adjustments in the previous opening dates, early November was pushed back as well.
Once early November rolled around, The Dome was still closed off, despite being fully inflated. Penney had even been optimistic after the original inflation.
“Most of the turf actually looks in really good condition, particularly in the north end, there will be areas that need repairs, but overall things look good inside The Dome,” Penney said.
However, after the construction crew began to work inside the inflated dome, the board of directors realized their original announcement may have been too optimistic.
Although the turf may have initially looked good, they soon realized a replacement was necessary. It was covered in debris and was extremely lumpy from water saturation. A new turf, costing over a million dollars, will be shipped in from Georgia, causing the majority of the delay in opening.
The hanging ceiling lights will also need replacement, the collapse caused the majority of the lights to collapse and fall onto the turf. New LED lighting is currently being installed, which will brighten up the facility that was previously dim.
In addition, the ceilings were stained and dirty. The whole interior also reportedly had a musky smell.
Members of UAA’s athletic teams were able to see the damage first-hand last month when helping to remove supplies from inside. The Seawolf track and field team also had a cage inside The Dome, shared with Alaska Running Academy, that had supplies such as jumping mats, javelins, medicine balls, hurdles and blocks. Once the building was inflated, the team worked to relocate all the supplies to a Connex storage container outside The Dome.
Yvonne Jeschke, UAA track and field member, was one of the people to first step inside The Dome.
“There were still a lot of parts on the ceiling that was ripped apart and dirty; the track actually looked fine but it was the majority of the turf that looked really bad,” Jeschke said.
Penney announced that a new laser system will be utilized to monitor and measure the snow and weight load on the ceiling to prevent any future problems like this. As a safety precaution, an alarm will also be installed in case any future issues arise.
All the repairs and replacements will cost over $6 million. This funding is supplied in part by Anchorage developer Jonathan Rubini, the chairman, and CEO of JL Properties. Without his initial contribution, The Dome would not be inflated. In addition to his loans and donations, other investments and donations graciously came in from many sources to fund the popular sports complex.
This cost still puts into question the refunds owed to previous members, many of which still try to contact The Dome personnel, but to no avail. The board of directors and Alice Federenko, CEO of Anchorage Sportsplex Inc. — the nonprofit that runs the facility — have confirmed that users will be reimbursed, but that still doesn’t settle the minds of many.
“In one way, shape or form, everyone who had a membership or had anything [invested] in The Dome will be made whole,” Federenko said.
Previous users, such as Axel Croy, member of a men’s league and coed soccer team, are still not comfortable with the promises made by the officials, especially since it has been nearly a year and no actions have been made.
“I asked for a refund, did not receive one as cash. They claimed to offer credit towards another season, but also have not seen that [either]. Their lack of communication with the community is also very worrying,” Croy said.
Previous community members are anticipating that once the building is open to the public again, all other matters will be resolved.
Former flag football player for The Dome, Alexander Nanez, is hoping that programs that the management previously instilled will return.
“I’m not sure if these programs that The Dome managed will return this winter but I am really looking forward to being able to have an indoor athletic facility to stay active in over the winters again,” Nanez said.
For community members and competitive sports teams. this spring should be much different than last spring in terms of training, with the assumption that the January opening date will not change again.
“We’re just as excited as anyone else to get in there, many of us that are part of the team at The Dome are users,” Penney said.
To stay updated with all that is happening to The Dome, visit their website at thedome.us or their Facebook page The Anchorage Dome.