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Dome essential piece of Presentation College landscape

Area football athletes stretch out at the start of the Dakotas Stock Up Showcase event held in the Presentation College Dome Sunday. The event is designed to let area athletes create a record of their abilities. Photo by John Davis taken 12/4/2022

With a roof that measures 72 feet high and dimensions that include 108,000 square feet, the dome structure on the campus of Presentation College should be easy to spot.

However, the facility tucked away on the northeast edge of the campus behind a grove of trees is still a bit of a well-kept secret to some residents in the community.

“I had actually a flag football parent call me and ask if they could rent the Strode,” said PC Athletic Director Blake Spindler. “And I said, ‘Well, flag football, you could rent our dome because that would be better,’ and they had no idea that we had a winter dome.”

The temporary structure was purchased for $2.4 million and made its initial debut on campus in 2015.

Spindler said the original idea to look into a dome came from former football coach Andy Carr.

“Our old football coach Andy Carr kind of did a big push for it and the push was we need a place for our outside sports to practice,” Spindler said. “This was kind of a big thing. There weren’t that many around, so it was very new.”

At the time, the dome was among the largest in the country. And while there are numerous domes that have popped up along the landscape since then, the one located at a NAIA-sized school like Presentation, is still a rarity.

“It is a big deal,” said current Saints football coach Steve Heimann. “Most small colleges don’t have something like this. In fact, I coached at the FBS level (Coastal Carolina) and we did not have a facility like this, so it’s a big deal.”

The dome is inflated for six months out of the year through an agreement with the city. It usually goes up in late October or early November and then comes down in the spring, exactly six months to the day it went up.

As one might imagine, getting the dome pieced together for inflation is quite a process. It requires three days and features all hands available in the athletic department – coaches and athletes – before it rises from the ground.

“If the weather is nice it goes up real easy and it comes down easy,” said Will Genzler of Quest Construction who annually works to set up and take down the dome. “But if the weather is not cooperating like it is this year, it’s a pain.”

Will Genzler, of Quest Construction, works on a lift to hang lights inside the Presentation College Dome while employees with PC lay out plywood for the lift to roll on. Photo by John Davis taken 11/29/2022

The dome features 123 lights which are hung surrounding the surface, which includes a full 100-yard football field, extra room behind one end zone for a batting cage, as well as plenty of space on the sides so it has a regulation-sized soccer field with room for temporary seating.

The temperature is set at anywhere between 50 and 55 degrees.

“When the temps drop to 30 below it’s a little cooler,” Spindler said, “but for the most part it’s pretty comfortable in here.”

The facility is monitored every single day to make sure it can withstand the ever-changing elements outdoors, which in South Dakota means plenty of winter wind gusts.

“You can visibly see it. When the pressure is low in here, you can look from the outside and it will sway a little bit,” Spindler said. “So, on windy days we need to turn it up, calmer days we can keep it pretty low.”

Naturally, the indoor facility is in demand throughout its six months of operation. Not only do PC athletes use the dome, it is also rented out to other entities such as Northern State, Aberdeen Central, as well as other North Star Athletic Association schools.

Spindler said the dome has actually been used by every school in the NSAA in the past for their softball games. The dome can hold two softball games simultaneously.

The facility is also open to the general public. Rental costs are $125 per hour for half of the field and $250 per hour for the full field. If interested you can contact Spindler at Blake.Spindler@Presentation.Edu

“We do rent it out as much as we can,” Spindler said. “Obviously, we try to give our teams first priority.”

He said the dome is a hub of activity weekday mornings and afternoons with PC athletes, with others renting spots when the structure has availability.

The dome hosts sanctioned softball games. While the field is regulation size for a football game, there are limitations that prevent those contests from taking place.

“The goal posts don’t fit on the edges, because it tapers down on the edges,” Heimann said. “There’s no clock, there’s no scoreboard, those kinds of things.”

Still, the dome serves a variety of needs, even including some of the basketball players who will do some conditioning drills inside the facility.

“It definitely serves its purpose,” Spindler said. “I don’t know where we’d be as a department without it.”

When the time comes each spring for the dome to come down, it is stored in eight separate bundles, each weighing about 10,000 pounds.

It is stored in an attached shed during the summer months.

“I think it’s a great asset for the community,” Genzler said. “They definitely use it a lot.”

The dome at Presentation College stands out from the landscape on the north end of the campus. Photo by John Davis taken 11/29/2022

All agree that taking the dome down is much easier than putting it up, but there is still work involved. However, it is nothing compared to the luxury of having a functioning place to call home during the harsh winter months.

“It’s just a lot of work to put it up and take it down,” Heimann said, “but I tell you what, it’s sure nice to have.”

For that reason, there usually isn’t any issue with finding enough PC student-athletes who lend a helping hand each year in the inflation process, knowing full well the benefits that take place with an on-campus dome.

“They absolutely love it,” Spindler said. “The setting up is a struggle, but they understand this has to go up and once it’s up you’re going to be able to use it.”

As the dome is currently in its eighth year of use, it continues to be a safe haven from the elements for all those who use it, regardless of school or affiliation.

And once inside, the PC dome still has a unique feel to it, just like it did when it first was inflated.

“When we first purchased this and put this up, it was a wow factor,” Spindler said. “It’s still a wow factor.”

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