The Gladiator Coliseum in Italy … Texas

Italy High School gymnasium.

The Italy High School Multipurpose Center in Italy, Texas, is nicknamed the Gladiator Coliseum in reference to the famous coliseum in Rome and the Gladiator mascot of Italy High School. The 148-foot diameter gymnasium seats 1,500 and includes a walking track around the upper level along with concession stands, ticket booths, locker rooms.

Dave South

Italy player scores a free throw.

An Italy Gladiator varsity basketball player makes his shot in a blowout game in the new gymnasium. The facility includes a state-of-the-art scoreboard and collapsible hoops with shot clocks.

Dave South

Once the 2,000 residents of Italy, Texas, passed a $2 million bond for a multipurpose center, administrators began researching popular construction methods for school facilities. Superintendent Mike Clifton said, “Of course we were all familiar with the domes. We had a good overview. But we really had to see for ourselves, so we visited Thousand Oaks—a dome already operating—and we came away convinced.”

Clifton and his board were impressed with the Monolithic Dome’s initial construction cost. He said, “We had an architect come in to talk about a conventional gym, and we knew what we could get for $2 million. With a Monolithic Dome, we could get so much more.”

He and the board noted other advantages: low ongoing maintenance costs, superior insulation, and low energy use, and the ability to survive natural disasters—including tornadoes, familiar visitors to Texas.

They learned that a Monolithic Dome is built to meet or exceed FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) criteria for structures that can provide what FEMA calls near-absolute protection. FEMA says, “Near-absolute protection means that, based on our knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a shelter built according to this guidance will be protected from injury or death.” (Design and Construction Guidance for Community Shelters p.1-2)

Gymnasium floor panorama.

With the bleachers retracted the gymnasium has two full-size practice cross-courts.

Dave South

Working with Architect Rick Crandall and Monolithic Construction Manager Alden Porter, Italy High chose a Monolithic Dome in the Orion style—a high, two-story design easily identified with dome arenas. It includes a gym with a walking track, two levels of seating for 1500, an auditorium, classrooms for special activities, concession stands, ticket booths, locker rooms, bathrooms, and concrete parking areas and driveways.

It’s also been designated as the school’s and the community’s disaster shelter. And when tornadoes roared through Central Texas in April 2002, residents headed for it.

The Italy Gladiators use this multipurpose center for basketball and volleyball, and the general school population of 650 uses it for physical education, theatrical performances and a variety of other activities.

Maple gym floor.

A striking, maple, parquet floor is laid in the famous Boston Gardens pattern.

Dave South

One of the dome’s features the athletes enjoy most is its maple, parquet floor laid in the famous Boston Gardens pattern. Dubbed the Air-Channel Star System, the floor is the result of many years of research by Robbins Inc.—the company that installed the Boston Gardens floor for the Celtics in 1946 and has since become a major supplier of gymnasium floors for the Olympics, professional stadiums and school gymnasiums.

“That floor works with the athlete, not against him,” said Pat Milligan of the Ponder Company, a Dallas-based distributor for Robbins. “It’s particularly suited for competition because it minimizes impact forces and helps the players stay fresh.”

Polypropylene seats.

Polypropylene seats with comfortable back supports are mounted directly onto concrete risers.

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Construction Manager Alden Porter noted that finding comfortable, durable seating at an affordable price was no easy task. With research, they found Grosfillex Sport Seats, manufactured by a French-based company with a history that dates back to 1927.

Italy purchased 880 Grosfillex Sport Seats—black, polypropylene units with 14-inch back support for comfort, that are mounted directly onto white concrete risers. Telescopic bleachers provide additional seating.

Given the beauty and uniqueness of this facility and its generous seating capacity, Superintendent Mike Clifton anticipates getting calls from neighboring schools asking to use Italy’s multipurpose center for playoff games.

Panorama of the interior.

A panoramic view of the beautiful gymnasium. Italy High School’s 650 students use the Multipurpose Center for basketball, volleyball, physical education, theatrical performances, band concerts, and special events.

Dave South