What goes up…. now comes down

Since the dome on the new Eastern Carver County Athletic Center was raised for the first time in late November last year, the space has been used for middle school physical education classes and school sports team practices. More than a dozen community groups have rented the space after school hours. The athletic center, located just west of Chaska Middle School East, is scheduled for deflation beginning April 16. Raising and lowering a dome is a highly technical and intensive activity. The process includes removing the more than 120 lights and 90,012 feet of cable. The last thing to come down is the dome fabric which must be dry before it is stored away in the facility’s storage building until it is raised again next November. The process is expected to take at least a week, but can be longer depending on weather. During the summer months, community groups can rent the 100,000 square feet of artificial turf for soccer, lacrosse and other athletic events.

The dome cannot stay up longer than six months or it would be considered by codes and laws as a permanent building. This would mean additional improvements, the biggest of which is fire suppression (a sprinkler system).

For more information about facility availability, click here.

Answers to your questions about the Athletic Facility:

Can Eastern Carver County Schools leave the dome up all year?

  • Having the dome up for more than six months of the year means building codes would consider it similar to a permanent building. This would require it to have a fire suppression system (sprinklers) and the district would need to meet additional code requirements. It would also require air conditioning, which would be expensive to install and operate.

Why didn’t the district design the dome to be up all year?

  • Given the additional expenses, it was not clear our public would have supported it considering that in the summer there are many more options for open fields. It would be expensive to run air conditioning and with more green space available to the public, the district wouldn’t have a reliable revenue stream to offset the cost. Finally, its primary use is to provide gym/athletic space for Chaska Middle School East. With kids out of school in the summer, there is no need to operate additional athletic space.

What does it cost to raise and lower the dome?

  • The annual cost is about $150,000. The rental fees Eastern Carver County Schools’ Facilities Department collects offsets some this cost this year. The goal is for the dome to operate largely independent of taxpayer support with fees to covering all the costs to install and remove the dome.

Didn’t the district communicate during the 2015 referendum that the facility would be used “year-round?”

  • Yes, the artificial turf allows the Athletic Center to be used year-round and in all kinds of weather. Artificial turf has some advantages to grass fields, which require more annual maintenance and sometimes are ruined if used after a heavy rain. The fields have a drainage system to move water to the retention pond to help ensure they remain operational regardless of rain. The dome is raised to allow continued use of the facility in winter months.

Can you leave it up this year, when the weather has been so bad?

  • We would if we could, however, we have to make sure the dome is not up more than six months (see previous answer). The other issue is that there are very few companies that raise/lower domes. The process is labor-intensive and specialized. The district is on a schedule (along with other communities that have temporary domes) with a national firm that travels around to do this work. Between the district’s current permit and the schedule of the company on which we rely for this work, the dome has to start coming down on April 16 this year.