Bison Activity Dome
The Bison Activity Dome is a high school gymnasium and FEMA-rated tornado shelter constructed at the Central City High School in Central City, Nebraska. The Monolithic Dome seats 2,100 spectators at sporting events and can shelter 2,800 people during severe weather. The dome opened in December 2022 and is the first FEMA Safe Room in Nebraska.
The long process of acquiring the dome began when a school board member, seeking solutions to help the school affordably expand and upgrade the school, found the Monolithic Dome in an internet search. He wrote the other board members an email at 2 a.m. outlining the benefits of the Monolithic Dome—especially how it can protect students during a tornado and how they may qualify for a FEMA grant to help build it.
The Central City Public Schools district applied for the FEMA grant. Eventually, the school was awarded $4 million, with the district passing a $3 million bond to pay for their portion of the facility. Another $700,000 was raised privately for equipment and other material not covered by the FEMA grant.
The dome structure is 176.5 feet (53.8 m) diameter by 24 feet (7.3 m) tall atop a 22-foot (6.7 m) stem wall constructed of Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF)—the building overall height is 46 feet (14 m). The facility opened in December 2022.
Central City is a small town of 3,000 people and the county seat of Merrick County in central Nebraska. The school district serves 744 students across three schools—the elementary school and the adjoined middle and high schools. The high school serves 220 students.