By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT —Nearly one year ago this week the weight of snow and ice collapsed the Ambrose Dome, home to many St. Ambrose University sports teams for practice and a few games.
On Jan. 28, the recently reopened facility was in full use.
Tony Huntley, SAU athletic facilities director, said the rebuilt dome has a much newer cable system and stronger fabric that has already been put to the test twice since it was inflated. The first test occurred when nearly 10 inches of heavy, wet snow fell during a November snowstorm. The next test occurred when snow, ice and wind pelted the dome in late December. Four domes went down elsewhere in the United States because of winter storms, he said, but the Ambrose Dome “passed the test.”
The old SAU dome had an exterior cable system, so snow collected in pockets. The new system lets snow and ice slide off much easier. A stronger, heavier fabric for the dome also was installed that helps resist tearing. It also has a topcoat to resist UV degradation.
The dome itself isn’t as round as it used to be. No additional square footage has been added at ground level, but the “walls” are more upright and the dome is slightly taller. More air pressure inside can also help the snow fall off the dome. If the air pressure gets too low, a generator kicks in to add more pressure to assist in snow sliding off. That generator will also keep the dome inflated in case of a power outage. “This is a much better structure,” Huntley said.
The cost for the new cable and fabric system, along with other repairs and improvements, was around $575,000. Most of the expense was covered by insurance.
A few tweaks still need to be done, but Huntley said the facility is pretty much in constant use from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Some of the teams that practice in the dome include baseball, softball, track and field, football, soccer, basketball and lacrosse.
St. Ambrose bought the dome, located on north Brady Street, in 2011.