On Dec. 29, 2016, parts of Maine saw snowfall of up to two feet, with reports of up to 27 inches in southern Maine, according to the National Weather Service. The storm knocked out power for more than 10,000 residents in Maine and caused numerous businesses to close, as well as causing significant issues with travel.
Due to the wet, heavy snowfall, the University of Maine in Orono saw the beloved Mahaney Dome collapse under the weight of the snow.
The dome, an 8,000 square foot structure adjacent to the field house, is 200 by 200 feet, standing 55 feet high at the center. The surface is made of artificial glass. The dome was constructed due to a $1M donation from Kevin Mahaney on behalf of his late father, Larry Mahaney, a longtime benefactor of UMaine athletics.
It is typically in use for 19 hours a day in the Spring, according to Will Biberstein, the senior associate athletic director for internal operations at UMaine. Sports teams, including football, rugby, baseball, softball and soccer, begin practices around 5 a.m., with the campus recreation center using it for intramural practices and games until midnight.
The collapse was due to a vertical tear spanning 90 to 100 feet, as well as a horizontal tear spanning eight to ten feet. Both have since been repaired, and it was re-inflated on Jan. 12. There was also damage to the lights, interior membrane and insulation, leaving it non-operational at this time.
The dome collapsed in January of 2007 under similar circumstances. At that time, there was a 16 to 20-foot tear and it was non-functional for two weeks.
Biberstein reported that there is insurance on the dome and in preparation for big storms, UMaine adds additional air pressure to prevent possible damages.
“The first step is to get a contractor to repair the damage to the exterior of the dome. Then we want to inflate it for evaluation and assessment so we can make an educated decision,” Biberstein explained at the time of the collapse.
Teams affected by the damages include the baseball and softball teams, who had planned to begin their preseason training once classes resumed on Jan. 17. Unfortunately, the dome is currently being looked at by a contractor and is out of service. Interim baseball coach Nick Derba and softball coach Mike Coutts have contingency plans in place for their programs if the dome is out of service long-term. Both teams will use the Mitchell Batting Pavilion and other campus facilities while considering off-campus sites such as Sluggers Baseball and Softball Training Facility in Brewer.
Coutts reported that the toughest impact for the programs is the inability to have scrimmages in the dome. “It won’t be a big issue for us,” he commented. “We’ll work around it.” Derba stated, “We’re just going to have to be a little more creative. Not too many colleges in the Northeast have domes. It is a huge advantage for us. But we’ll figure out how to make it work.”