ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A popular inflatable athletic complex has been reinflated and improved, after it collapsed last year under the weight of heavy snowfall.
A popular inflatable athletic complex is reinflated and open to user groups.
On Monday, the facility opened for user groups to allow employees to complete their training process, according to Curtis Penney, CEO of The Dome.
"We're all in this together, and Alaska is incredibly lucky to have something like this," Penney said.
The facility's reopening means user groups, like UAA's Track and Field team, can continue practicing on the indoor track.
Ryan McWilliams, associate head track and field coach, said when the collapse happened, the team had to switch from training on the Alaska Airlines Center's short track and onto treadmills.
"The treadmill's hard, because – especially for the guys – they don't go fast enough; 16 miles per hour isn't quite fast enough for the specific work we need to do," McWilliams said. "On a treadmill, you set the speed and it stays that speed. You can't really do what you do here, which is go out hard and be able to fade like you would even in a 400, 200 meter. You just can't really train top speed very well."
McWilliams added that most of the men on the team race at speeds greater than 19 mph.
For Vanessa Aniteye, a sophomore on the women's team, The Dome holds a special place in her heart.
"This is where I ran my very first 400," Aniteye said.
Aniteye said regaining access to the dome for training will help the team.
"I think it's going to help us a lot for our training, because for some things – the relay handoff [and] the longer workouts, like we did for the 400 – we really need the track," Aniteye explained. "It's just different running on track than the treadmill. Running in spikes – it's a transformation. So it's very important for a track and field to have a track."
Repairs for the space totaled an estimated $7.5 million, which was funded through multiple groups.
The Dome's director of operations, Russell Moore, said there is a multiple-step contingency plan in place, should the facility face another heavy snowfall event.
"Obviously, snow is going to fall no matter what we do," Moore said. "What we have to do is be aggressive and be proactive. So we've got three separate companies contracted, each of which is responsible for removing snow along the surface of the dome."
According to Moore, the third company is there as a backup.
"What they actually do first and foremost – we raised the temperature and the pressure of the dome. [This] tightens the skin and allows gravity to do its job just a little more easily," Moore said. "We increased the temperature [to] help melt [the snow] a little bit – release some of that surface tension."
Moore said they can also perform what's called "inflation bumping."
"We slightly decrease the pressure temporarily – literally by opening the door and then closing the door – let it pump back up, and that bounces snow off the skin," he said.
Other improvements to the facility includes brighter and more energy-efficient LED lighting, a brand new turf, and a full-sized pickle ball court where batting cages used to be.
Now, The Dome also identifies each of its different fields by color code, instead of by numbers.
Jonathan Rubini, a philanthropist involved in the reconstruction of The Dome, said plans are in the works to start a community health initiative, which could mean community members may have access to the space for free during some hours.
"If you're a parent of a soccer player, a touch football player, or if you're a UAA world-class athlete, you already know the importance of The Dome for winter training," Rubini said. "But The Dome should be available for the whole community, for just general community health."
An endowment fund "Friends of the Dome" has been created to support long-term operations of the facility.