Lauren Cuddihy is a member of the UAA track and field team.
Over the weekend of Jan. 20, Anchorage residents were bombarded by over a foot of fresh snow, a sight many haven’t seen in years. While this created a cascade of problems including severe lack of driving visibility, dangerous road conditions and power outages, one unanticipated outcome was that of the destruction of the local sports dome.
Beginning the night of Friday, Jan. 20, users and employees of The Dome began to notice a depression in the ceiling. In a generally routine and uncomplicated response — considering that Anchorage had received snowfall like this in previous years — employees bumped up the heat in the building to melt the snow in the hope that it would slide off.
With snow continuing to fall overnight and well into the weekend, it was then decided that snow must be manually removed from the roof to prevent any additional complications.
Despite the problems the structure was experiencing, a couple hundred people continued their activities in The Dome on the track, soccer field and fitness center.
Efforts to clear the roof fell short as the ceiling continued to depress under the weight of the snow and the newly formed water from the melted snow, which added much more weight than anticipated. Over the course of Saturday morning into late evening, employees monitored and watched the ceiling continually sink.
The general manager of The Dome, Dino Sutherland, was present and aware of the situation from the very beginning.
“The weight accumulation outpaced the pressure; there was only so much pressure that I could put into the building,” Sutherland said.
To take precautionary measures, The Dome was evacuated of all users by mid-afternoon. At that time management sent eight employees onto the roof to attempt to clear it off. To no avail, the snow continued to melt and put pressure on the roof.
Just before midnight, The Dome had only about ten feet of standing room between the turf and ceiling, and approximately 40 feet of standing room on the track and side areas. Several members of the management team commented that at what they thought was a final turning point – a loud shifting sound. they expected the remaining snow to slid off and the matter to resolve itself, but safe in the concrete observing deck, they realized that The Dome was actually collapsing.
In the midst of the situation, they were able to evacuate safely before the entire structure came down.
In a dire situation for all, the temporary loss of The Dome significantly impacts the UAA track and field team, Anchorage School District spring track and field, soccer, baseball, and softball seasons, numerous running and athletic clubs and, of course, the general public of Anchorage that utilized the structure.
With the harsh, cold winters of Anchorage, The Dome board chairman Mike Martin realizes the value of the facility to the community.
“There may be at any given time, several hundred people in The Dome,” Martin said.
The UAA track and field team utilized The Dome on a daily basis from August until September. Head coach Michael Friess realizes the impact it has on the training of his team.
“It is extraordinarily valuable to us,” Friess said, but he is optimistic of the team training “old-school” on the treadmills at the Alaska Airlines Center.
In addition, ASD utilized The Dome in the spring months, with a schedule already in progress for 2017, hosting upwards of 5 high school track meets, 33 women’s soccer games, 29 men’s soccer games and additional practices for the baseball and softball teams.
ASD middle school sports utilized The Dome as well, with six track and field meets scheduled there.
Although it may be temporary, estimated several months, the loss of The Dome will have a tremendous effect on the athletic communities of Anchorage.