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An ode to the Kibbie Dome, faculty soccer’s weirdest stadium

THE HIGHWAY THAT connects Pullman, Washington, and Moscow, Idaho, is roughly 9 miles. It is a well-known stretch for these on the Palouse, slicing by means of the rolling hills and wheat fields of the area.

Apart from the turnoff for the tiny Moscow-Pullman Regional Airport, there aren’t many notable landmarks between the faculty cities of Washington State College and the College of Idaho. It is principally farmland, however when making the drive from the west, one massive white construction stands out.

It comes into view a few half-mile earlier than the state border, dwarfing every little thing round it on the College of Idaho campus. Most first-timers assume it is an airplane hangar. College students joke it is a big beer can on its facet.

Formally, it is known as the ASUI-Kibbie Exercise Heart, however since opening 50 years in the past this week as the house to Idaho soccer, it is principally been identified by a unique identify: The Kibbie Dome.

It is also called the weirdest faculty soccer stadium in America — and one of the crucial uncommon sports activities venues on the planet.

“This is the irony: the Kibbie Dome just isn’t actually a dome,” stated Alec Holser, a founding accomplice of Opsis Structure in Portland, Oregon, who led the 2011 renovation of the constructing. “There are different geodesic domes manufactured from wooden, however that is really a vault.

“It is an arched-shaped steady [roof] like a blimp hangar. Actually, one of many few different buildings of comparable gargantuan dimension had been the blimp hangars in-built World Battle II.”

On its 50th anniversary, it is time to have a good time the entire weirdness that makes the Kibbie Dome considered one of a sort.


FIRST, LET’S ESTABLISH that the “dome” of the stadium just isn’t 50 years outdated. The constructing itself debuted as an open-air facility on October 9, 1971, however the big picket roof that sits atop a concrete stadium bowl was not completed till 1975. That accomplished an bold mission to exchange the outdated Neale Stadium, which was condemned in 1968 and destroyed by an arsonist a yr later.

It is made solely of wooden, which is a badge of honor in that a part of the nation. The College of Idaho launched one of many first forestry departments within the nation in 1909, and it is one of many faculty’s proudest packages.

“It is a loopy development,” Holser stated. “They actually received a contract to mainly construct a dome over the present stadium, which is simply nuts.”

Holser stated it is a exceptional feat of engineering, utilizing the corporate’s wooden truss system with metal joints, notably when you think about that it was all completed by hand calculations within the pre-computer period. The roof spans 400 ft throughout, protecting 4.5 acres, and the middle is 144 ft above the sector stage, equal to a 12-story constructing.

“Extra just lately, some soccer stadiums around the globe have been constructed with wooden,” Holser stated. “However by way of a wooden soccer stadium, it is the one one which I am conscious of that actually qualifies. There aren’t many, if any, on the planet — actually within the U.S. — that will be a wooden construction protecting that sort of distance.”

The unintended results of the design turned out to be helpful for the Vandals.

“The curve-shape does focus among the sound right down to the ground,” Holser stated. “It is notably unhealthy on the sector, or it is … good, relying on which manner you wish to take a look at it.”

Even visiting coaches have come to adore it.

“I performed there in 2011 after I was at Louisiana Tech,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes stated. “I really like the place. There have been between 6,00Zero and eight,00Zero folks on the sport and it appeared like between 60,00Zero and 80,000. It was deafening. I’ve coached in a bunch of huge locations and that was as loud as anyplace I’ve ever been.”

Dykes laughed, recalling that each offenses performed poorly on that Oct. 8, and each punters appeared to have profession days, kicking a mixed 21 occasions for 1,030 yards, a 49-yard common.

“These guys had been simply launching it,” he stated. “I all the time thought it was a miracle that they caught it inside that dome, as a result of it regarded like it might be laborious. It was like watching guys attempt to discipline fly balls on the Astrodome when it first opened.”

Kicking discipline targets is not simple, both. Attributable to house constraints, the goalposts are connected to the partitions behind each finish zones, and in an Idaho-Eastern Washington sport within the spring, officers mistakenly known as a profitable Japanese discipline aim no good with the sport tied within the fourth quarter.

Idaho went on to win 28-21, after which the Huge Sky released a statement that learn, partially, “The bodily setup of the scoreboard and catwalk immediately adjoining to the uprights on this finish zone of the Kibbie Dome create distinctive circumstances when figuring out whether or not a kick is sweet.”

Former Idaho quarterback Doug Nussmeier, who gained the Walter Payton Award as the very best Division I-AA soccer participant in 1993, has fond reminiscences of taking part in within the dome. He appreciated how the ambiance might get electrical, however there have been drawbacks.

“I bear in mind we all the time hated when the rodeo would … come to city within the wintertime,” stated Nussmeier, who’s now the Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach. “We’re doing winter conditioning, and they might herald belt vans stuffed with filth to make the rodeo area and we might be in there doing winter conditioning within the mornings and also you’d simply be inhaling all these diesel fumes and mud within the air, as a result of they’re dumping filth all over the place. It was simply depressing.”

Then there was the turf. Beneath the synthetic Tartan Turf put in in 1972 was a four-inch asphalt mattress, which made the floor about as forgiving because the car parking zone outdoors. It lasted 18 years earlier than being changed by AstroTurf, although the brand new carpet did not present a lot enchancment.

“I’ve received many a scar on my physique from turf burns on that turf,” Nussmeier stated. “I feel we had the toughest turf within the nation. You’d get burned nonstop.”

Holser stated the taking part in floor had one of many first detachable turf fields in America. FieldTurf was put in in 2007.

“There is a system — it is really made by the identical firm that makes Zambonis — that takes these big 15-foot-wide rolls of synthetic turf and it scoops them up and rolls them, after which shops them,” he stated.

Whereas the engineering ingenuity was spectacular, wooden development had its downsides. There was basically no pure mild, so electrical payments for lighting was pricey. Then, there was one other concern that Holser found when he was introduced in to debate the renovation.

“Over time, the tip partitions started to deteriorate,” he stated. “They had been simply coated with a single layer of plywood and woodpeckers put holes in them so, should you stood in there, you’d see these beams of sunshine coming by means of. It did not actually have any insulation, and apparently the heating system had conked out 25 years in the past, and so it received progressively colder in there because the season went on. In fact with the fowl holes, that added to the wind coming by means of the house.”

Essentially the most surprising factor Holser heard in conferences concerning the mission was that there have been Idaho officers who thought it would simply be time to destroy the dome itself and return to the outdated bowl stadium. They thought it would be too costly to repair, and a few, he stated, thought soccer was greatest performed within the parts.

However the fee to tear it down wasn’t considerably totally different than how a lot it might price to repair it and ensure it adhered to up to date seismic and constructing laws.

Holser changed the picket finish partitions with glazed fiberglass panels, bringing mild into the dome and saving the varsity $100,00Zero the primary yr in electrical payments. He managed to protect an indoor facility for extra makes use of than solely soccer.

The athletic division additionally makes use of the dome as its dwelling for soccer, tennis and indoor monitor and discipline. In any other case, the venue hosts every little thing from concert events, intramurals and graduations to the Palouse Pinewood Derby and the Lionel Hampton Worldwide Jazz Pageant, winner of the Nationwide Medal of Arts in 2007.

Idaho will open a brand new basketball area this month — the $51 million Idaho Central Credit score Union Enviornment — however since 2001, the Kibbie Dome has been transformed into the Cowan Spectrum for basketball. The sector-in-a-dome mannequin took inspiration from the Provider Dome at Syracuse and the Alamodome when the San Antonio Spurs performed there, and used 27,00Zero sq. ft of material curtains to create a extra intimate setting.

Holser, who designed the brand new 4,000-seat area, stated finding out the Kibbie Dome, which is subsequent to the brand new constructing, was an inspiration for what has already been hailed by Idaho senior affiliate athletic director Matt Martin as “essentially the most distinctive facility within the nation.” It is a pioneering mission in using “mass timber,” an rising development product comprised of layers of compressed wooden.

“The importance in it for us was to proceed the ingenuity [behind the Dome’s engineering] and form of no-holds-barred willpower to construct one thing like that,” he stated. “That is why I labored on the world to push the boundaries of mass timber and development for basketball arenas.”


ALEX BOATMAN WAS 13 days outdated when he attended his first sport within the dome and solely missed a pair contests till becoming a member of the crew as a walk-on long-snapper in 2014. Few folks have inhabited it like him.

He performed youth soccer inside, attended group occasions and even labored there part-time as a desk attendant, making rounds deep into the night time. He is one of many few individuals who have been contained in the roof — there are gaps between the outside shell and the large trusses that assist it — and peered down on the discipline by means of the slats.

“The Dome is dwelling,” stated Boatman, who now works in improvement for West Virginia athletics.

“The Dome sort of personifies our college and every little thing we’re. It simply sort of exhibits Idaho is a state of simply making an attempt to get by. It is like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna play like 5 sports activities in right here and get by with as little as potential, facility-wise.'”

Holser agrees that it is a product that represents its environment completely.

“I’ve labored so much in Idaho through the years in communities like [Moscow]. You are sort of on the market, so there is a spirit of ‘Yeah, we will do this. Why not?'” Holser stated.

If there’s such a factor as a stadium with a cult following, the Kibbie Dome is it.

A few of its most passionate followers have by no means stepped foot inside. Eight years after EA Sports activities discontinued its well-liked NCAA Soccer video video games collection, there stay players who take over the Vandals in dynasty mode to deliver nationwide championships to the dome.

Simply two weeks in the past, a Reddit consumer began a thread known as “The Kibbie Dome Problem: Make this the #1 hardest place to play.” It is stuffed with responses from individuals who shared their very own digital dynasty tales.

At one level, the native Walmart offered Kibbie Dome T-shirts. From 1997 till 2017, the time wherein Idaho was an FBS soccer program earlier than transferring again to the FCS in 2018, the 16,000-seat stadium was the smallest by capability in top-division soccer (the common FBS attendance in 2019 was 41,129). But there are methods it outshines behemoths like Alabama‘s Bryant-Denny Stadium. Tuscaloosa has Huge Al, the Crimson Tide’s costumed elephant mascot. The Kibbie Dome has the actual factor.

“I’ve seen a circus there,” Holser stated. “I’ve seen elephants there. I’ve seen motorhomes there. You identify it, something can occur.”

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