The grand opening of Eastern Michigan University’s new inflatable sports facility is at 10 a.m. June 15 on the corner of Huron River Drive and Westview Drive by Rynearson Stadium.
Mark Monahan, director of the Convocation Center, said the welcome center, the landscaping and parking lots are getting finished. They are trying to get it cleaned for this weekend, which brings a Saturday football appreciation picnic and a 7-on-7 passing camp with former Detroit Lion and EMU standout Ron Rice on Sunday.
“The facility will primarily be used for football practice but will be utilized by the women’s soccer team, the baseball team and the softball team, as well as both the men and women’s golf teams,” Monahan said. He added that EMU student groups and intramural sports would also have access to the facility.
Monahan said they have received heavy interest from local youth groups that want to use the new sports facility. Therefore, when EMU athletics are not using the dome it will be rented out for local sporting events or leagues to offset the 3.9 million dollar cost of the project.
The dome has a welcome center at the north entrance for the public and a covered walkway to the south entrance for players.
When inflated, the dome stands 410 feet long, 210 feet wide and 75 feet tall. Three million pounds of concrete hold the dome in place. The dome is large enough to accommodate nearly every sport.
“The dome is big enough to play three or four soccer games at the same time,” Monahan said. “Everyone says ‘wow’ the first time they step in because it looks so much bigger from the inside.”
There are white and blue lines sown in to the turf. The white lines outline the regulation-sized football field and the blue lines outline the boundaries for an international-sized soccer field. There is a layer of silica sand and rubber pellets embedded in the turf fibers to stabilize and support the system, much like the turf at Rynearson Stadium.
Scott Hall, EMU women’s soccer coach, said his team had to travel all the way to Canton to practice indoors, but now they are happy to have an indoor facility so close to campus.
“We have only had two days to use it so far but, obviously, we love it,” Hall said.
He said this facility would allow EMU to do a lot more for its student body. This is another way to draw people to the program and make new players want to come to EMU.
John Donegan, chief of operations at EMU, said the cost to build a full rigid structure the same size would have been much more expensive and we wanted something that the community could come out and enjoy, as well.
“What is cool about this structure is that the costs versus the benefits are phenomenal,” Donegan said,
He said the building is heated but not insulated, which allows for a lot of natural light to enter the building. He added this dome is one-of-a-kind because it goes up extremely fast, taking about eight hours to inflate.
There is a giant white “E” sown into the center of the field and there are hanging goal posts at each end zone. Donegan plans to put up some EMU banners and an American flag inside the dome, as well.