Consider it the flush heard around the world when the Tacoma Dome reopens for a concert by Drake on Nov.1. Sure, the main floor will be filled with trailers, recreational vehicles and campers this weekend for the Fall RV Show, but the true test of the renovated facility comes when people try to use the restrooms during intermissions.
The renovations converted former storage space on the main floor into bathrooms, the lack of which was a complaint visitors had of the 35-year-old facility. The Dome’s main floor, which has a capacity of about 3,500 people, goes from 14 to 52 stalls in the female bathrooms and from five to 18 stalls for men on top of the 30 additional urinals.
Other improvements to the 23,000-capacity facility include all new seating – actual seats rather than steel benches. The main floor level seating areas also telescope out from the walls for easier storage and transition between events. One person can now set up an entire section of seats in a matter of minutes rather than using forklifts to install long sections of benches only to then be stored in a back parking lot when not in use, a common practice before the renovations. The new seating system not only quickens show preparation time to about a day; it also adds parking spaces that were otherwise taken up with the old sections of seats.
“All the seats are new from top to bottom,” said Director of Tacoma Venues and Events Kim Bedier. “I am so excited about the new seats. The comfort level is exponentially better.”
Not only are the seats actual seats instead of benches, but the rows offer more leg room even for taller Tacomans in the audience. Other changes include new concession areas and upgrades to the heating and sound systems. But don’t be shocked if you aren’t overwhelmed by the changes. Much of the work focused on ways to operate more efficiently to add dates to the Dome’s events calendar, such as the addition of loading docks in the back lot to speed up staging shows. The newly renovated Tacoma Dome is still the Tacoma Dome and $30 million doesn’t buy what it used to in 1983 when it opened with a David Bowie concert.
“It was definitely time for her to get some love,” Beider said.
More changes will come in future years, namely a new roof. The 530-foot diameter wooden Dome works fine now, but it is aging and should be replaced in the next five or 10 years, she said.
That work could include the installation of Andy Warhol’s iconic “Flower” for the Dome, which was submitted when the Dome was being built and received new interest in recent years. That effort would cost about $4 million for the installation and ongoing cleaning, all money that would have to come from private donations. Once that money is raised, more detailed discussions on installing it could begin.
“It’s still something out there,” Beider said.