Blog: Dome Stories

EARTHQUAKE-PROOF: DOME SURVIVES 7.0 EARTHQUAKE

On Friday, November 30, 2018, a Yeadon Dome withstood an earthquake and served as an emergency community shelter in Anchorage, Alaska. The earthquake, which registered between 7.0 – 7.2 on the Richter Scale, caused significant and extensive damage to buildings and roads in and around the city. Somewhat surprisingly, though, the earthquake caused no deaths and did no damage to The Dome, a world-class sports complex that serves Anchorage as a year-round athletic facility.

Anchorage Sports Dome

“The earthquake sounded like a jet aircraft”

“We could hear the earthquake coming, and it sounded like the roar of a jet aircraft,” said Curtis Penney, CEO of The Dome. “It builds up and intensifies, and you realize it’s a really big quake. The sound is very loud and noticeable, especially in all the aftershocks, because you recognize what it is – it’s an earthquake.”

Extensive damage, but not to the dome

Anchorage earthquake damage

“There was damage in and around all of Anchorage, and it was very widespread, but somewhat scattered,” said Penney. “The level of damage was different depending on your location. A quarter mile from our facility, there was a car that fell into one of the giant cracks in the road, and a nearby church had damage to all of its windows, TVs and dishes, plus about 3-6 inches of water in its basement from broken sprinkler pipes.”

“Despite the devastation nearby, The Dome suffered no significant damage,” said Russell Moore, Director of Operations for the athletic facility. “Some things inside the dome were moved several feet and several items fell over, but no significant damage was done to the dome’s structure itself.”

“The initial quake lasted about one minute,” said Penney. ”Immediately after the quake hit, we were on the phones talking with our general contractor, as well as with the technicians and specialists responsible for maintaining our HVAC units, blowers, sprinklers and other infrastructure. We did immediate inspections with our general contractor and in-house technical crew to visually inspect the dome’s structure and its fabric. Everything checked out, and we were green-lighted to be fully open at 10 a.m. that same morning after the quake.”

Eagle River earthquake damage

Penney noted that one of the nearby towns wasn’t as fortunate, stating “The town of Eagle River, which is about 15 miles northeast of Anchorage, was completely devastated by the quake because the building and safety codes for that city are different from ours here in Anchorage.”

Building codes and emergency preparedness

Building codes and emergency preparedness are keys to withstanding and responding to earthquakes.

“The Dome itself is very stable,” said Moore. “The dome structure is attached to concrete, with cables that go 40 feet into the foundation, which is quite deep. All of Anchorage’s buildings have to be built to withstand a certain level of seismic activity, and our Yeadon Dome did great.”

Penney proudly noted how the city of Anchorage has made earthquake-survivability a priority ever since a 9.0 earthquake destroyed much of Anchorage in 1964. “We are very fortunate that all of Anchorage has put such a priority on being prepared to withstand and respond to earthquakes,” said Penney.

“We’ve also put a lot of work into being prepared for emergencies,” Penney continued, noting The Dome’s commitment to emergency preparedness and training. “We do lots of drills, and we practice regularly for such occurrences. One of the drills we do is a Distributed Evacuation Plan (DEP), where we put referees and coaches who use our facility regularly through evacuation training procedures in order to help keep everyone safe.”

The dome serves as an emergency community shelter

Immediately after the earthquake, Penney and Moore decided to open The Dome free of charge to serve as an emergency community shelter for the entire city of Anchorage.

“We decided we had a duty to our community, so we opened The Dome up to anyone in the community who needed a place to stay warm and safe,” said Penney.

The Dome had plenty of room to accommodate people, as it boasts 180,000 square feet of space, with a full-size, multi-use athletic turf field inside a 411-meter track. The Dome can accommodate a full-size soccer field, flag football, setups for baseball and softball, track and field events including shot put and discus, as well as other activities such as bag toss, badminton, ping pong, laser tag and pickle ball.

“We put a lot of work into safety and being prepared for an earthquake. It feels great to say that we were over-prepared for it,” said Moore.

“It’s really great to be part of a community that was so well prepared and so responsible economically and logistically,” stated Penney. “The reality is that The Dome simply did great during and after the earthquake.”