Crews at the DakotaDome work to put a lid on it

Crews at the DakotaDome work to put a lid on it Michael Van Dyke, senior superintendent and project, manager with Harris Construction, is confident that installation of the new rigid insulated steel roof on the DakotaDome will be complete by Aug. 12. Behind him is a large steel tower that will serve as a hub for the construction activity. by David Lias There's an eerie silence inside the DakotaDome on The University of South Dakota campus these days.

At the same time, the din of noisy caterpillars, loader tractors and compactors echoes off the exterior concrete walls of the structure.

Gone is the usual hubbub of students and the general public who use the classrooms, the track, the weightroom and the pool.

The entire DakotaDome area is now a construction zone as workers prepare to start covering the building with a new roof.

Students clad in athletic gear have been replaced by construction workers wearing hard hats. The crew of Harris Construction, Lawrence, KS, has taken over the building, both inside and out.

Workers are in the process of completing a major feat. A large steel tower, which had its beginnings several feet below floor level in the center of the Dome, has steadily grown.

As of Monday, it was just a few feet short of touching the highest portion of the Dome's fabric roof.

The tower will play a vital role as workers soon begin the task of constructing the DakotaDome's new rigid insulated steel roof.

The new roof will replace the air-inflated fabric roof that has covered the DakotaDome since its construction in 1978. The new roof will last the life of the DakotaDome and will reduce electrical consumption by approximately 5 million kilowatt-hours per year.

The base bid roof replacement contract and project contingency total $11,148,211. Initial estimates projected a cost of $11,505,000. A budget of $10,505,000 was approved by the South Dakota Board of Regents last May, including a state appropriation of $4 million and $6.5 million in bonds to be paid by USD with students fees, Dome gate receipts and utility savings.

Additional funds to complete the project were provided by the University of South Dakota Foundation.

Michael Van Dyke, senior superintendent and project manager with Harris Construction, has taken over a ticket office inside the Dome as his work headquarters.

He is overseeing several projects at one time, including the recent stockpiling of gravel near the Alumni Center building.

That gravel is now being used to build large pads in the moat that surrounds the Dome.

Those pads must be built to high specifications, for they will be bearing a significant load soon.

Large cranes that will be used to hang the new roof's long steel spans will be moved to the pads, close to the Dome's exterior walls.

The cranes themselves boast a considerable weight. When workers unloaded one of them in the Dome's parking lot, it left its mark, cracking through the five-inch thick concrete.

The task ahead for the construction crew is both enormous and delicate. Van Dyke, however, expressed confidence that the work will be done by its projected completion date of Aug. 12.

"The Dome will be ready for the university and the public to use at that date," he said. "That is our scheduled completion time."

Van Dyke said the tower being built in the center of the Dome will be approximately 140 feet tall when completed. It will pierce through the fabric roof, but workers won't remove the old roof as they're installing the new one, in part to protect the Dome's interior.

The tower will stand about 30 feet above the peak of the fabric roof. The new roof will rise 12 above the tower.

"That's counting from the cable dimensions, so the visual height will be a little bit less than that, because the fabric billows out," said Ken Schmidt, director of facilities management at the university.

Once workers extend the tower through the fabric roof, a platform will be placed on its top.

"They will set a hub right on the center of the tower," Schmidt said. "Sections of the (roof) structure will be put in place from the center tower to the outside wall, like spokes on a bicycle wheel.

"They will set them all in one piece as I understand it," he added, "for the full length. When they set one on one side, they have to be setting another on the other side. They have to counterbalance it. That's why there will be a crane on each side of the Dome."

The two cranes will set three or four roof structures in place while sitting opposite one another on the pads being constructed in the moat.

"They will then move the cranes to another pad, and set three or four more, and then move the cranes again until they get all of that main structure up and in place," Schmidt said.

Once the structure is in place, the workers' next task will be to put cross bracing between the main sections of the roof.

When that is complete, they will be able to remove the center tower.

"The roof will look like structural steel that you see in any regular building, but it will form an arch over the top," Schmidt said. "It will be domed-shaped."

The roof's exterior will be white, but unlike the fabric roof, it won't be opaque.

"At night, we will not see the white glow any more when the lights are on," he said, "and you also won't be able to tell sunshine or darkness on the inside because there won't be any light that gets in from the outside."

The Dome's roof no longer will have a flat, pillow-like appearance.

"The Dome will noticeably be steeper looking from the outside," Schmidt said. "It will stand higher on the horizon."

The top of the new roof will be about 30 feet higher than the fabric roof.

Schmidt and other university officials are excited about the Dome's future. The new roof will mean an end to leaks that have plagued the structure in recent years. It will end the dreaded practice of sending crews up on the roof to shovel snow following a blizzard.

It will allow the Dome's interior to be better lit, and be air conditioned.

"A portion of the Dome project's cost is being funded by about $100,000 in electrical energy saved with this new roof structure," Schmidt said.

Eventually, the acoustics inside the building will also be improved, he said.

"The acoustical treatment that is planned for the project will not occur for one year (after the new roof is completed) to maximize the efficiency of that design," Schmidt said. "We won't do that work until we get that new structure all up and in operation and the turf down. The designers will come in and complete final acoustical readings and tests on the new structure."

The acoustical treatments likely will be installed in the summer of 2002.

"For the first year, we're going to have some very, very exciting crowds for athletic events because it's going to be more of an echo box," Schmidt said. "However, that's a detriment when you're doing some of the other programatic things like special events or band performances or graduations or speaking engagements.

"When we do get those final acoustical treatments in, our goal is to get a better balance of those acoustical effects with the new structure and the acoustical treatment," he added. "Some people that first year may complain about it if we have more speaking-type, or performance-type things. Ultimately the following year, and for years after that, it will be much better."

The university will also put the crane pads to good use once the roof project is complete. The pink quartzite rocks that have lined the moats had to be removed to construct the pads.

Schmidt said plans are on the drawing board to utilize the gravel that has been moved in to the moats and improve the landscape in the area around the Dome.

People with Internet access can keep track of the construction project by logging on to There is a link on that web site to a live video camera aimed at DakotaDome.

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