Renovations being made to meet standards
Thirty-three years after its construction was completed, the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome is ready for a makeover. When it opened in September 1977, the Skydome’s construction was state-of-the-art, including the world’s largest clear-span timber dome. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fire and Life-Safety (FLS) requirements have changed since the time of the original build, and the university is making necessary improvements, said Rich Chipman, senior project manager of the Skydome renovations.
“The initial mechanical renovations began [in] August 2010 but are generally not apparent, except for the concrete roof structure now covering the utility yard on the north side of the Skydome,” Chipman said.
The renovations will address outdated fire alarms and sprinklers, restrooms on the concourse and field level, stairs and railings, locker and training rooms, and mezzanines on the east and west sides to accommodate offices and meeting rooms.
“Upon completion of this renovation, the Walkup Skydome will meet or exceed FLS and ADA requirements while maintaining its unique design.” Chipman said.
Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems will also be improved, as well as utility yard upgrades, elevators and seating replacement — which will restyle the stadium to provide full-bowl seating. NAU estimated the cost
at $21.9 million in its Capital Project Status Report, but Chipman said that figure could change.
“The final cost of the construction is still being negotiated at this time,” Chipman said. “We will be able to provide you with an exact figure in a few weeks.”
The project is funded by Stimulus Plan for Economic and Educational Development (SPEED). According to a university release, Arizona Lottery revenues will fund 80 percent of the SPEED debt service, and the university will pay 20 percent.
NAU would pay interest only on the project for five years.
Primary renovations are set to begin after fall graduation, in December 2010.
Dave Brown, Skydome director, said he is pleased the structure is getting the renovations it not only needs, but is entitled to.
“We’re very excited to give the Skydome the respect it deserves,” Brown said. “It has certainly had a wonderful history, and it’s time for a facelift.”
The Skydome is already a major part of this campus, according to Anna McCabe, a sophomore psychology major.
“I’m especially looking forward to the seating improvements,” McCabe said. “With the Skydome renovations and the new athletic facility, NAU will look better than ever and have more things for us students to take advantage of.”
McCabe said she does not attend very many football games during the season, but if NAU had a large television display in the stadium, she would attend more.
“I know NAU isn’t building an enormous screen over the field, but it would be cool if they did,” McCabe said. “The only problem with that is people would watch the screen instead of the players on the field. At least the athletes will have new locker rooms; I’m sure everyone is excited about that.”
Construction is mostly out of the students’ way and will take place around the Skydome, McCabe pointed out. The renovations are estimated to be completed in September 2011.