The groundbreaking ceremony for Iowa's only domed stadium occurred on July 26, 1974, after several years of fundraising. Most of the money used for construction came from student fees and from private donations from alumni and community members. This $7.5 million structure was completed in 1976. The UNI-Dome, as it is commonly known, is a multi-purpose coliseum designed by Thorson-Brom-Broshar-Snyder Architects of Waterloo. For sports, it has a Mondo-Turf football surface that can be rolled up when not in use and an all-purpose floor marked as an eight-lane running track.
The Dome is used for concerts, community events such as recreational and craft shows, and commencement ceremonies. When the Dome is not in use by the University, it can be rented for various purposes.
The main seating area accommodates over 16,000 people for football games. The domed roof was originally made of fiberglass with a teflon coating, with its inner layer assisting with the melting of snow and ice in the winter. For heavy snows, workers still had to scoop snow off the original roof by hand. That original roof was also fully translucent, permitting natural lighting during the day, and it was supported by cables but suspended by air pressure. It had an electronic monitoring system to alert officials to any problems and is climate-controlled to allow for year-round use. In the fall of 1998 a new "hybrid" roof was installed that consists of two parts. The lower section has an external finished surface of stainless steel and the translucent center portion remains Teflon-coated fiberglass. This center portion, or skylight, comprises about 45,000 of the 160,000 square feet of roof.
The building has four main concourse level entrances: two on the east and two on the west. Each is named after a major contributor to the Dome project. There are also two other entrances: one on the north and one on the south side. The north entrance opens into a hallway which leads to the Wellness & Recreation Center, as well as the Richard O. Jacobson Human Performance Complex which opened in 2008. The north end of the Dome also houses the locker rooms for the UNI Football team and a state-of-the-art athletic training complex. On football game days, the Panthers traditionally take the field through the famed garage door in the northwest corner of the building.
The south end of the UNI-Dome connects to the McLeod Center -- UNI's home for volleyball and men's and women's basketball since November of 2006. The connector between the two buildings houses the UNI Athletics Hall of Fame and also serves as a host site for events put on by organizations such as the Panther Scholarship Club.
Three times in its history the dome encountered major structural difficulties. On November 9, 1975, a mechanical failure in the fan system during a thunderstorm resulted in the slow deflation of the dome. When the fabric began to sag, water built up in those areas, causing the material to rip. The roof was reinflated after repairs later that month. Another strong thunderstorm was the cause of the second deflation of the Dome. On June 30, 1977, high winds, rain, and a power failure caused the dome to deflate and later tear. And again, on December 9, 1994, an accumulation of water from melting snow and ice on the roof caused the material to tear along a seam. Strong winds then ripped a triangular hole in the material, which resulted in deflation.
It was reinflated December 19, 1994, after a replacement panel was installed.
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