Ironworkers get a firsthand look at the DakotaDome’s Unlimited horizons

Ironworkers get a firsthand look at the DakotaDome's Unlimited horizons From 300 feet above street level, one can fully appreciate the work being done to install a new roof on the DakotaDome. New steel trusses circle the top of the structure, much like the spokes of a bicycle wheel, and in several areas, steel decking is in place. Behind the Dome one can easily view Rose Street and buildings of the USD campus. On clear days, workers can see the Missouri River on the horizon. by David Lias The crew of Havens Erectors, Inc. receives a first-hand look at the unlimited horizons of USD's DakotaDome � when Mother Nature allows.

The ironworkers have been hampered by high winds early this spring, lightning storms, rain, and most recently, searing heat.

In the last couple weeks, however, the men have been making steady progress. The weather has allowed them back up on the top of the Dome to continue the delicate job of putting new steel spans and decking in place.

In the process, the workers receive a daily dose of a breathtaking view of the entire Vermillion community.

The cranes used to lower the Dome roof's new steel beams in place can easily lift someone over 300 feet straight up. From that height, the largest structures in the city take on a lilliputian quality.

The Polaris building, easily one of the most prominent structures in Vermillion, looks like a cracker box. The University of South Dakota campus is reduced greatly in scale.

The view from the top of the Dome leaves one with no doubt that the building, with its new, higher steel roof, is being transformed into one of the state's more prominent landmarks.

Dave Stewart, general foreman of Havens Erectors, Inc. of Kansas City, MO, said the transformation process is now going at a faster pace thanks, in part, to cooler weather.

In the first two weeks of August, it wasn't uncommon for temperatures to climb above 90 degrees day after day in Vermillion. The sun beating off the concrete and steel of the Dome easily made life miserable for the ironworkers.

"We had been working 10 to 12 hours a day," Stewart said, "but on those real hot days, they (the crew) were wore out in eight hours. They went home in eight hours because you were wore slick in just that amount of time.

"But now that we've got the good weather, we've been coming right along here in the last few days," he added.

In the first full week of August, Stewart's crew was able to move two more large trusses in place on top of the Dome.

"We've only got two more on the south side, and two more to do on the north side, and it will be done," he said.

His crew has also made good progress on installing the steel roof decking between the large trusses.

Stewart hopes to have the last of the 28 trusses in place on the structure by Aug. 21. All of the decking should be installed by the second or third week of September.

Stewart and his crew will then be able to step back and allow another contractor to put insulation and the roof's membrane over the decking.

Weather isn't the only challenge Stewart has had to face. The new roof is being installed during one of the busiest times of the construction season.

"I'm still trying to get all the help I can," he said. "It's hard to get enough help right now. Everyone is busy, and I've had 11 people come up from Kansas City because we can't find enough people locally."

Twenty-nine ironworkers and four crane operators currently are working nearly from sunup to sundown when the weather cooperates. They're up on the Dome Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, doing what they can to make up time lost to poor weather this spring.

This spring, the project's general contractor, Harris Construction, Lawrence, KS, expressed confidence that the new roof would be in place by mid-August.

Constant, strong winds in April and May made it impossible to meet that timeline, however. The roof work likely will be complete in mid-September. The USD Coyotes football team will play its season-opening game at Crane Youngworth Field in Yankton Aug. 30.

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

"There's 2,500 tons of iron up there," Stewart said. "We're starting to make a little headway, so things are beginning to look really good."

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