Indoor Arenas / Facilities

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When Domed Structures Are No Match for Mother Nature

8 Feb, 2017

By: Michael Popke

We’re into the season of ice and snow (no kidding), and it’s driving sports events indoors in many areas of the U.S. But what happens when domes and other structures meant to protect venues can’t hold up to the loads of snow, ice and wind?

Nothing good, that’s for sure.

The manufacturer and operator of The Dome, a massive 18,000-square-foot inflatable facility in Anchorage, Alaska, are confident the structure can be repaired instead of replaced after heavy snow on the roof caused its collapse last month.

“The only thing I can say definitively is we are marching this forward as fast as humanly possible,” Mike Martin, head of the nonprofit organization that manages The Dome, told the Alaska Dispatch News on Feb. 3. “Without giving an exact number, we’re looking at something that is not a year-long process.”

Martin also was not willing to reveal the estimated repair costs but said he is confident paying for the work won’t be an issue.

Yeadon, the Minnesota-based manufacturer of the distinctive fabric structure, recently visited the facility. According to ADN.com, the repair process will involve removing steel cables from the top of the dome and eventually making it “recommissioned” to ensure fire suppression, security systems and other vital operations are functional.

The collapse on Jan. 21 left hundreds of Anchorage athletes without a place to play and practice. Among those organizations left out in the cold were the University of Alaska Anchorage’s track team and Alaska Youth Soccer.

Mother Nature likes to have her way with inflatable sports facilities. Perhaps the most (in)famous dome collapse happened in December 2010l when the Metrodome’s inflatable Teflon roof collapsed under the weight of snow following a Minneapolis storm. A Monday night Vikings home game against the New York Giants was forced to relocate to Detroit’s Ford Field.

The fabric of the Sport Zone soccer dome in suburban Chicago succumbed to the crush of snow, rain and sleet in December 2015. That incident happened overnight and left only “bent doorways that opened up to nothing, and an empty parking lot,” according to the Chicago Tribune. It was the dome’s third collapse in 25 years.

And in 2008, heavy winds claimed the 103,500-square-foot, climate-controlled practice facility used by Arizona State University’s football team. Storms ripped to shreds the fabric bubble that was supported by air pressure and caused $1 million in damage.

Like the Anchorage incident, nobody was hurt in those dome disasters.

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