Lauren Cuddihy is a member of the UAA track and field team.
On Jan. 20, Anchorage and the surrounding areas were overtaken by a foot or more of snow in just 24 hours. During the duration of the storm, The Dome users and employees started to see a growing depression in the ceiling of the inflatable sports complex. In an attempt to restore normal balance to the building, the employees and management initiated a normal snowfall response: Turn up the heat to melt it off the top.
In a counterproductive outcome, management began to realize that instead of the snow melting and falling off, the water and ice began to pool in the ever-increasing depression until it was too late.
General Manager Dino Sutherland has been working excessively since the collapse and was the first one aware of the situation that took place that night.
“The weight accumulation outpaced the pressure; there was only so much pressure that I could put into the building,” Sutherland said.
Over the past five months, the loss of The Dome remained significant to many aspects of the community.
The Anchorage School District lost their primary spring location for outdoor sports. Men’s and women’s soccer lost weeks of valuable playing time and were forced to utilize other methods to make game time possible. In addition, high school track and field was limited without a proper track to run on.
Originally, ASD had a policy that no snow was to be manually removed. But, after several requests, ASD Superintendent Deena Bishop encouraged the schools and ASD’s activities director for secondary education, Derek Hagler, to be creative with the process.
“I, and our maintenance staff, took that as permission to do what we’ve never done before and to try to clear off some of those fields,” Hagler said.
Over the next several weeks, in a extensive process, the snow was cleared off of Chugiak High School, East High School and Service High School’s fields in order to make up for the loss of their regular facility.
Another huge setback was given to UAA’s track and field team.
The team went from training on the full-size track everyday, to running on treadmills and on the 180-meter track in the Alaska Airlines Center.
In an unfortunate occurrence all-around, a large amount of disappointment came from athletes who traveled much farther to Alaska with the assumption that they will have a guaranteed indoor running track to train on.
UAA sprinter, Vanessa Aniteye gave up ideal training facilities in Hamburg, Germany to come to Anchorage.
“I had to adjust my training to the facilities that were available. Jumping on treadmills [going upwards of 16 mph] was something I never did before UAA. I had never even trained on treadmills before. As naive as I was, I underestimated the treadmill and fell off the first time trying to train on it,” Aniteye said.
Aniteye and the other athletes, including ones from other UAA sports who run as cross-training, are ready and anticipating The Dome for next season.
“The treadmills have shown us that there are other options, but having The Dome is definitely going to benefit everyone’s training even more,” Aniteye said.
The loss of The Dome affected more than just college and high school athletes, the general public lost an important asset.
Public users of the facility were appalled by the lack of communication and resilience offered after the collapse, even to this day, many users still have unanswered questions.
Anchorage resident and Dome user Axel Croy is still upset by the way management is handling the situation. After using the facility an average of two times per week playing for coed and men’s soccer leagues, Croy immediately reached out to management after the collapse.
“I think [they] handled the situation abysmally. They have since gone into complete hiding and there seems to be no accountability within their organization. Their lack of communication with the community is also very worrying. This policy of keeping the public in the complete dark has had the adverse affect of creating rumors and uncertainties,” Croy.
Six months later, Croy and other users still haven’t received anymore information or refunds that were initially guaranteed.
“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,” Croy said.
For the first time since January, the board of directors of The Dome spoke out in May with an update.
With a concise and ambiguous message to the public, the directors announced that all efforts are being made to have The Dome up and running soon, as well as refunds.
“[The Dome owner] is in a precarious position and will remain so as negotiations continue, including discussions amongst The Dome’s insurance company and creditors, The Municipality’s Building Department, and the corporation that runs The Dome, Anchorage Sportsplex Inc. We see light at the end of the tunnel for this phase of the process and are cautiously optimistic that our next communication will provide additional clarity on a reopening date,” the Board of Directors said in a message on their website.
The directors gave hope that another announcement will come in the following weeks, but after another month and a half, it has been radio silence.
With regards to refunds, the directors announced that with the lack of cash reserve they have available, immediate refunds were not possible. They have made several attempts to request money for make refunds possible, but if not, then any reimbursements or credit to future memberships will be postponed until The Dome has been repaired.
For up-to-date progress on the repairs and refunds, visit either www.thedome.us or their Facebook page at The Alaska Dome.