An enormous beer can on its aspect: Why the Kibbie Dome is faculty soccer’s weirdest stadium

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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 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 largely farmland, however when making the drive from the west, one giant white construction stands out.

It comes into view a few half-mile earlier than the state border, dwarfing all the pieces 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 aspect.

Formally, it is referred to as the ASUI-Kibbie Exercise Heart, however since opening 50 years in the past this week as the house to Idaho soccer, it is largely been recognized by a distinct title: 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.

“Here is the irony: the Kibbie Dome isn’t actually a dome,” mentioned Alec Holser, a founding accomplice of Opsis Structure in Portland, Oregon, who led the 2011 renovation of the constructing. “There are different geodesic domes made 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 constructions of comparable gargantuan measurement had been the blimp hangars in-built World Conflict II.”

On its fiftieth anniversary, it is time to have fun the entire weirdness that makes the Kibbie Dome considered one of a form.


FIRST, LET’S ESTABLISH that the “dome” of the stadium isn’t 50 years outdated. The constructing itself debuted as an open-air facility on October 9, 1971, however the big wood roof that sits atop a concrete stadium bowl was not completed till 1975. That accomplished an formidable undertaking to exchange the outdated Neale Stadium, which was condemned in 1968 and destroyed by an arsonist a 12 months later.

It is made exclusively 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 college’s proudest applications.

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

Holser mentioned 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 performed 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 world wide have been constructed with wooden,” Holser mentioned. “However when it comes to a wooden soccer stadium, it is the one one which I am conscious of that actually qualifies. There usually are not many, if any, on the planet — definitely within the U.S. — that may be a wooden construction protecting that form of distance.”

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

“The curve-shape does focus a few of the sound all the way down to the ground,” Holser mentioned. “It is notably unhealthy on the sector, or it is … good, relying on which means you wish to have 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 mentioned. “I really like the place. There have been between 6,000 and eight,000 folks on the sport and it seemed like between 60,000 and 80,000. It was deafening. I’ve coached in a bunch of massive locations and that was as loud as anywhere 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 mentioned. “I at all times thought it was a miracle that they caught it inside that dome, as a result of it appeared like it will be onerous. It was like watching guys attempt to subject fly balls on the Astrodome when it first opened.”

Kicking subject targets is not easy, both. As a consequence of house constraints, the goalposts are hooked up to the partitions behind each finish zones, and in an Idaho-Eastern Washington sport within the spring, officers mistakenly referred to as a profitable Japanese subject purpose no good with the sport tied within the fourth quarter.

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

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

“I keep in mind we at all times hated when the rodeo would … come to city within the wintertime,” mentioned Nussmeier, who’s now the Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach. “We’re doing winter conditioning, and they’d usher in belt vans stuffed with dust to make the rodeo enviornment and we would 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 dust in all places. It was simply depressing.”

Then there was the turf. Beneath the unreal Tartan Turf put in in 1972 was a four-inch asphalt mattress, which made the floor about as forgiving because the 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 mentioned. “I believe we had the toughest turf within the nation. You’d get burned nonstop.”

Holser mentioned 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 mentioned.

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

“Through the years, the top partitions started to deteriorate,” he mentioned. “They had been simply lined with a single layer of plywood and woodpeckers put holes in them so, in case you stood in there, you’d see these beams of sunshine coming by. 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 hen holes, that added to the wind coming by the house.”

Essentially the most stunning factor Holser heard in conferences in regards to the undertaking 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 might be too costly to repair, and a few, he mentioned, thought soccer was finest performed within the parts.

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

Holser changed the wood finish partitions with glazed fiberglass panels, bringing gentle into the dome and saving the college $100,000 the primary 12 months 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 residence for soccer, tennis and indoor monitor and subject. In any other case, the venue hosts all the pieces from live shows, intramurals and graduations to the Palouse Pinewood Derby and the Lionel Hampton Worldwide Jazz Competition, winner of the Nationwide Medal of Arts in 2007.

Idaho will open a brand new basketball enviornment 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 Service Dome at Syracuse and the Alamodome when the San Antonio Spurs performed there, and used 27,000 sq. ft of material curtains to create a extra intimate setting.

Holser, who designed the brand new 4,000-seat enviornment, mentioned 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 “probably the most distinctive facility within the nation.” It is a pioneering undertaking in using “mass timber,” an rising development product constituted of layers of compressed wooden.

“The importance in it for us was to proceed the ingenuity [behind the Dome’s engineering] and type of no-holds-barred dedication to construct one thing like that,” he mentioned. “That is why I labored on the sector 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 enormous trusses that assist it — and peered down on the subject by the slats.

“The Dome is residence,” mentioned Boatman, who now works in growth for West Virginia athletics.

“The Dome form of personifies our college and all the pieces we’re. It simply form of reveals Idaho is a state of simply attempting 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 attainable, facility-wise.'”

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

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

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 sequence, there stay avid gamers who take over the Vandals in dynasty mode to deliver nationwide championships to the dome.

Simply two weeks in the past, a Reddit person began a thread referred to 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 Massive Al, the Crimson Tide’s costumed elephant mascot. The Kibbie Dome has the true factor.

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