Dome roof replacement proposal goes to South Dakota legislators

Dome roof replacement proposal goes to South Dakota legislators by M. Jill Sundstrom The fate of the DakotaDome roof is going to the South Dakota State Legislature.

During its Jan. 21 meeting in Vermillion, the South Dakota Board of Regents approved a financing package resolution asking the state for up to $6.5 million in bonds to be issued by the South Dakota Building Authority to pay for a fabric roof replacement.

University of South Dakota officials, however, have expressed the desire to replace the Dome�s covering with a permanent, fixed roof, for an estimated cost of about $11.5 million.

If a rigid roof is chosen, the extra $5 million would have to come from other sources.

�We recommended a final plan that the Board of Regents has endorsed and taken to the legislature,� said Greg Redlin, USD�s vice president of finance and administration. �This plan calls for a permanent PVC roof and the additional cost would come from four main components, donated funds, energy savings, student fees and gate receipts.�

The bonds would be paid off by USD over a 25-year period, he added, also with energy savings, student fees and gate receipts.

Replacing the Dome roof is a multi-step process, Redlin said. Over the summer, university officials worked with an architectural firm to examine the cost of several different alternatives for the structure�s covering, as requested by the Board of Regents. The results of that study included:

? $6,632,000 for a fabric replacement;

? $20,577,000 for no roof;

? $13,014,000 for a combination solid roof with a fabric center;

? $12,884,000 for a geodesic design;

? $11,505,000 for a solid PVC roof; and

? $14,305,000 for a stainless steel solid roof.

�We examined the initial cost, the life cycle of the roof and energy savings, using current dollar values and adjusting for inflation,� Redlin said. �In every case, we found that the permanent roof was far cheaper and we based our recommendation to the Board of Regents on that.�

Ultimately, it�s up to the Board of Regents to decide, but Roger Kozak, executive assistant to the president at USD, is confident that the necessary funds can be raised for a solid roof replacement.

�It will be a challenge,� he said, �because we�re talking about a large sum of money. But the friends and alumni of USD have always been there when we needed them and we hope they will be there again.�

Replacing the Dome roof is necessary for several reasons, including the age of the DakotaDome. The original life expectancy of the present roof is 20 years. By the time a decision is made on its replacement, it will actually be older than that.

�We can�t be naive to assume that we can make it last longer than was intended,� Kenneth Schmidt, director of facilities management at USD, said last May.

In addition to the roof�s age, saving maintenance costs and safety are major concerns in considering its replacement. As it stands now, the fabric roof of the Dome must be supported with constant air pressure. Snow build-up must also be prevented, which can run from $5,000 to $30,000 a year, depending on the number and severity of winter storms. Safety is also a factor during snow removal operations on the Dome roof.

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