Remembering South Dakota’s dome collapse


Eastern South Dakota has many things that resemble Minnesota, but on a smaller scale. One of those things is the DakotaDome, which is a dwarf compared to Minnesota’s Metrodome.

The DakotaDome, in Vermillion, was built in 1979 for $8.2. The Metrodome was completed in 1982 at a cost of $68 million.

Both were built with Fiberglass, air-supported roofs. And people in both cities spent many years learning what a bad idea that was.

The people of South Dakota wised up and replaced the state-owned DakotaDome roof with a $13.7 million steel roof in 2001. The people of Minnesota have come to despise the Metrodome, and both the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Twins have moved out. But the Minnesota Vikings are still there. After last weekend’s Metrodome roof collapse, the facility’s days are probably numbered.

The DakotaDome had the same kind of trouble with its air-supported roof.

In the DakotaDome’s first year of existence, a big section of its roof tore off in a snowstorm. Three years later, on Oct. 20, 1982, the DakotaDome roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow. Luckily for the University of South Dakota, workers were able to repair the roof in time for a football game three days later.

Though both domes became the butt of derogatory jokes over the years, they have both provided their respective users with protection from the harsh upper-Midwest winter weather. People tend to forget that if an air-supported roof hadn’t been available at a relatively cheap price back in the 1970s and ’80s, they’d probably still be freezing their butts off at outdoor football games today. Had taxpayers been asked to foot the bill for a stadium with a much more expensive hard-top roof, they probably would not have been as supportive of building indoor facilities.

Former USD athletic director Jack Doyle hit on that truth in a 2009 interview with the Sioux City Journal.

"If we hadn’t built a dome with an air-inflated roof, we wouldn’t have a dome today," Doyle said.

So, as we laugh at the Metrodome’s misfortune today and remember the similar troubles experienced by the DakotaDome, we should also remember that both domes served an important purpose over the years. They moved us indoors to enjoy sports without the threat of frost bite, paving the way for better, steel-roof-covered buildings. South Dakotans have their old baggie dome to thank for the steel-covered DakotaDome of today, and if the Vikings ever get a new indoor home, Minnesotans will probably have the Metrodome to thank for bridging the gap to that structure.

Categories: Commentary, General News

About Author

Seth Tupper

Seth Tupper was born and raised in South Dakota and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from South Dakota State University in 2001. After college, he worked at a newspaper in Minnesota and then returned to South Dakota in 2003 to join the staff of The Daily Republic in Mitchell, where he is currently the publisher. Seth has won numerous awards for his writing, including the 2007 Outstanding Young Journalist award in the daily newspapers category of the South Dakota Newspaper Association's Better Newspapers Contest. Seth's day-job and freelance work have granted him opportunities to meet hundreds of South Dakotans and travel across much of the state. He also spends a lot of his free time exploring South Dakota's state and national parks, hiking trails and kayak-friendly rivers.

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