In Anchorage, time among sports people can be measured in BD and AD.
Before The Dome, during the long, dark months of winter, there was nothing but school gymnasiums, cafeterias and hallways available for kids’ sports practice.
After The Dome, Anchorage had a gargantuan, 180,000-square-foot sports haven available year-round, for toddlers, students, senior citizens, people with disabilities — for everyone. A venue for private, public and school-based sports, this air-supported mega-dome provides a place to practice, compete, workout, run, walk, stretch, learn and play all under one roof. And, under that roof, the weather is always perfect.
In South Anchorage off Raspberry Road, the nonprofit facility houses certified track, soccer and football fields, a basketball court, weight equipment, batting cages and more. Ultimate Frisbee, pickleball and yoga happen here. Physical education programs for home-schoolers happen here. Training for firefighters and law-enforcement officers happens here.
“You could put a five-story building inside and not touch the ceiling,” said CEO Curtis Penney. “This dome is the largest air-supported structure of its kind on the planet. “
The Dome went up in 2007 — and down in 2017 when it collapsed under an unusual wet, heavy snow load. By then, it had become an essential part of life for thousands of Alaskans. Led by Anchorage developer John Rubini, and with support from Rasmuson Foundation, The Dome received several upgrades and was back up and running within the year.
“I grew up in Alaska playing soccer before we had The Dome, so I’ve seen the before and after,” said Jo Reid, technical director of Anchorage Youth Soccer Club. The difference is “huge.”
Her three children grew up playing soccer, too, but at The Dome rather than in various school gyms. Time saved from driving from gym to gym allowed Reid to coach two teams.
“From a coach’s standpoint, from a director’s standpoint, from a parent’s standpoint, I love it,” she said. “We see a lot of parents walking the track while kids are playing soccer. I think it’s great for kids to see adults being active.”
The mission of this self-sustaining facility is to make the community healthier, Penney said. So, scholarships, discounts and free times can be arranged.
“We want cost to be eliminated from somebody’s ability to get started on a health journey,” he said. “When we say we’re trying to make it as accessible as possible, we mean it.”