Under the Dome
Krippaehne says the first phase of the project is primarily safety upgrades. “Our work will bring the building up to code,” he says. “The original building was almost 100% wood frame without smoke control, fire sprinklers or proper egress for evacuation.”
A major issue was trading the wood structure out for steel components to reduce combustion potential. Where wood elements remain, Walsh is putting in fire suppression sprinklers and smoke exhaust fans.
“If there is a fire, smoke will be removed through these giant fans, and people will be able to exit safely,” Krippaehne says.
Work to reduce fire hazards, upgrade fire alarms and improve exiting paths by adding three sets of exit stairs and handrails began in 2007 after the Idaho State Board of Education approved funding for improvements and expansion. According to U of I officials, the total cost of the first phase, including engineering and design, is about $12 million.
The projected price tag for the total effort is $52 million and includes adding 3,600 seats to increase capacity to 20,000; lowering the playing field to accommodate the new seats and improve sight lines; and updating concourses, restrooms, media facilities and lighting.
Plans include an additional 306 club seats, 34 loge boxes and six suites for donors and alumni, along with a 9,000-sq-ft premium level Vandal Hospitality Club Room with upscale lounge and concessions.
Before renovation, the Dome had a floor area of 93,550 sq ft and a seating capacity for football of 16,000.
Walsh Construction started work on the west wall portion of the project in the spring of 2009 by replacing the wooden wall with a noncombustible structure.
Safway Services LLC of Spokane built 16-story scaffold towers inside and outside the wall for crews to deconstruct then reconstruct the wall while the building was occupied.
Scaffolding was constructed so that anything that fell during the removal was contained within the scaffold walls. Crews lowered the old pieces with a tower crane, disassembled them and replaced them with new steel and translucent panels.
Bill Melrose, onsite project manager for Walsh, says that because the work had to be done while the facility was up and running, crews faced numerous safety issues, primarily keeping the dome users safe while they tore down the west wall, then replaced it.
The west wall will provide a new west-end approach to the Dome with reserved VIP parking. Translucent fiberglass panels replaced the old walls, opening the Dome to natural daylight to give it a larger, open and lighter feeling. “The surface of the wall measures 50,000 sq ft and will require 200 tons of structural steel,” Melrose says.
University President M. Duane Nellis says the activity center “is a symbol of the university’s commitment to provide our students and our community with a leading living and learning experience. The Kibbie is a vital part of the university’s full life—athletics, academics, community and more. We are pleased to have this icon shine.”