Anonymous donor gifts dome gymnasium to Idaho community
Thanks to a generous, anonymous donation the community of Hansen, Idaho, has a new gymnasium. The Hansen School District owns the 120-foot diameter monolithic dome but shares it with the city. “This is a unique facility,” said Superintendent David Carson at Friday’s open house. “It’s a community school district partnership. Both entities will be able to use it — a lot.”
The gymnasium features a full-size basketball court that also serves as two full-size volleyball courts. It has a six-foot-wide walking track around the court. Plus there is a 1,100 square foot fitness room along with a meeting/concessions area and four restrooms — two with showers.
“From the school district standpoint, this would be a practice facility for the Hansen Junior High and High School programs,” said Carson. “It will also be a facility that the community recreation programs can utilize. Outside entities can sign up and use it as well.”
The donor or donors — who worked through a third-party liaison to stay anonymous — granted $1 million for the building. A nearby community reportedly received the offer first. They proposed using the donation as a downpayment for a larger facility. The donor declined and approached the school district and city of Hansen, Idaho, with the offer.
In May 2017, the school district — in cooperation with the city — accepted the donation and formed a committee to research the project.
Typically a school district will hire an architect that designs a structure, then submits the design for bids from contractors. In Idaho, a school can opt to write out the specifications for what they want — basketball court, fitness room, bathrooms, etc. — and submit the specifications as “design-build” to contractors. The contractors create a design to meet the requirements and offer a turnkey bid package to the district. It allows contractors to design around their strengths and gives greater freedom in what buildings are considered for a project.
It’s interesting to note that David B. South lobbied the Idaho legislature in the 1980s for the law — which passed — to allow districts to use design-build for new construction.
The Hansen building committee released a design-build RFQ (Request for Quote a.k.a. Request for Qualification) in January for the new community center. Several contractors submitted designs and bids for the project. All but one were square, steel buildings.
Dome Technology of Idaho Falls submitted a bid for a monolithic dome structure.
“We opened this envelope,” said school board member David Bjorneberg, “and thought ‘what is this round thing?’”
“It took a little while to sink in,” he said.
Dome Technology’s design and bid were on budget and ultimately accepted in April 2018. Darren Wheeler, sales manager at Dome Technology, said there were a few change orders during construction to add items not included in the original bid. For example, security cameras were added to the structure. Superintendent Carson said the school district provided an additional $100,000 to finish the building.
Construction started last September with 13-foot tall stem wall created using insulated concrete form (ICF) blocks, filled with steel rebar and concrete. Crews then constructed the 20-foot tall dome roof using the standard monolithic dome construction method. The overall dimensions are approximately 120-feet diameter and 33-feet tall.
Bjorneberg said many people watched as construction progressed and didn’t believe the building would be large enough for a full-size basketball court. He said that one faculty member snuck into the building when the shell was complete and measured it for themselves. They called Bjorneberg later and said, yes, it is actually big enough.
“Oh my gosh,” said Mayor Todd Simpson, “it’s huge!”
Simpson is also the recreation director in Hansen. He says that now that it’s finished, they need to work out the details on who uses the structure and when. The school will likely have it during the day and the public using it in the mornings and evenings.
“We are still in the infant stages of what we can put in here,” said Stimpson. “First and foremost is probably basketball and volleyball. The walking track will be great in the wintertime. Hopefully some aerobic classes, spinning classes.”
“We have Hansen Days coming up in July,” said Stimpson. “We always do a little event to kick it off. We talked about having a movie in here as our first big activity.”
They still need more equipment. Community leaders are asking for donations for volleyball stands, portable basketball hoops, two main basketball hoops. It’s a work in progress, but clearly the ideas for its use are growing. Several people attending the open house asked about holding extended family parties in the dome. One person asked about holding a yoga class in the fitness room rather than the nearby barn they are currently using.
Whatever the school and community decide to do, it’s obvious the dome is a massive addition to the community — all thanks to a generous benefactor.