In 1971, the Northern Michigan University (NMU) administration proposed building an All-Events Center for sports, concerts, and other community activities. In a campus referendum on May 5, 1971, NMU students voted “no” to the proposed all-events center. This happened despite the support of the Associated Students of Northern Michigan University (ASNMU), the on-campus student government. Students opposed the All-Events Center because the administration planned to charge students a $20 per semester use fee to partially support construction. In addition, the previous year the administration had proposed the construction of a new physical education building, making an additional sports center appear redundant to both NMU students and the citizens of Marquette.
In 1977, the administration reintroduced the idea of constructing an all-events center, but the proposal again received strong negative responses. Students and citizens of Marquette believed the project was too expensive or unnecessary. However, in 1985 NMU became a site for a U.S. Olympic training/education center. As a result, the Michigan legislature approved $21,800,000 for the construction of a Sports Training Complex.
On September 14, 1991, the Superior Dome opened its doors for the first football game. A capacity crowd of 7,942 fans watched Northern Michigan University defeat the University of Indianapolis, 31-20.
The Dome was not fully completed until 1995 with the addition of locker rooms, classrooms, offices, ticket sales, and repairs of ice damage to the roof.
The Superior Dome stands 14 stories and covers 5.1 acres, making it the largest wooden dome in the world. The Tacoma Dome in Washington State is smaller by only six feet in diameter. Construction required 781 Douglas fir beams and 108.5 miles of fir decking. The seating capacity is 8,000, but the building can hold 16,000. The artificial turf is the largest single piece of retractable turf in the world. It takes about two hours to set up and 30 minutes to put it away. The artificial turf accommodates football, soccer, softball, and field hockey. A hardwood floor beneath the turf supports basketball, volleyball, tennis, badminton, and includes a 200-meter track. NMU and the community use the dome for commencement, builders’ shows, car shows, craft shows, public school events, and more.
The exterior of the Superior Dome.
This post was written by Eliza Compton.