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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Ryley Wilcox
Ryley Wilcox
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I found my passion for journalism during my sophomore year of college, writing articles here and there for the North Wind. Since joining the staff this past semester as the news writer, I have been able...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Superior Dome proving too costly for Northern’s diminishing budget

With the NMU Superior Dome now over 16 years old and high-priced repairs on the horizon, the university is attempting to hand ownership of the dome over to the state.

NMU President Les Wong said maintenance costs are another reason to seek new ownership for the Superior Dome.

“We felt if the university could be the managers of the dome and have the state take (it) over, a lot of the maintenance could be supported by state dollars directly rather than having us have to use instructional dollars in order to maintain it,” Wong said during his Oct. 24 Radio X talk show “Let’s Chat.”

NMU Athletic Director Ken Godfrey said there was proposed legislation to transfer control of the Superior Dome from the university, adding that the legislation had passed through the Michigan House of Representatives and has moved on to the Michigan state Senate.

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If dome ownership was to change hands, Godfrey said the university would still be able to use it for everything it does now. The dome would still be able to accommodate NMU football, track, soccer, intramurals, USOEC, car shows, craft shows, builders’ shows and everything else the facility is currently able to hold.

Recently, the dome has started to incur rising maintenance costs, and Godfrey said that was one reason the university was looking to change ownership of the facility.

One of the dome’s biggest issues is a faulty roof, which has had several problems since the day it was built, he said.

“In all honesty, it leaked from day one,” Godfrey said. “The company [that built the roof] went bankrupt. We were going to try to take legal action, but it’s hard to do that when they file bankruptcy.”

According to NMU archives, when the Superior Dome was first constructed in 1991, the roof installed was less than sufficient. Rubberized roofing was installed instead of the standard metal roofing due to budget concerns. The rubberized roofing had a 15-year guarantee. The basic structure cost 21.8 million and was originally designed to be built in three stages, the third stage including an ice arena.

Aside from the many roof patches, which are clearly visible on the outside of the building, other construction has been necessary. In 2005, work was done to prevent ice and snow landslides from sliding off the peaks onto the surrounding sidewalks, creating safety hazards.

“They took the middle canopy off, so the snow falls straight to the ground now,” Director of Recreational Facilities and Services Carl Bammert said. “Before, the two canopies came together and it was like a ski-jump. The snow would come down and shoot right off onto the sidewalk. That was a problem since the building was built, and we finally were able to get funding to fix that.”

Another expenditure looming for the Superior Dome is replacement of the astro-turf. The turf, which was installed in 1991, is now 16 years old and has lasted longer than originally predicted.

“Right now, it all comes down to money. That’s going to be a costly undertaking,” Godfrey said. “It’s a good turf; they said it would probably last 10 years and now we’re in the 16th year of operation. It’s lasted very well, it still looks pretty good and it’s still safe.”

Godfrey added that the age of the dome makes it difficult to keep the facility under university ownership.

“That facility was opened in ’91. It’s getting old and there are a lot of things that need attention -high cost things like the roof and the turf,” Godfrey said. “There’s a lot of high priced things that need to be addressed, and if the state took it over then they’d have to assume some of those responsibilities.”

When the dome was built, operation costs were estimated at $900,000. In the 2006-07 fiscal year budget, Northern Michigan was appropriated $600,000 to operate the same facility 16 years after its creation.

During Wong’s radio show, he also said the state should take over the dome because the facility currently acts as a convention center for the Upper Peninsula. Other venues that act as convention centers in Michigan, and are used in the same manner as the dome, are owned by the state, he said.

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