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Dome deflation: Well-known sports facility deflates dome, shares plans for future

SCHOOLCRAFT, MI – Under Josh Baird’s watch, and for nearly 30 years, there’s been a consensus primary objective around a familiar landmark in Schoolcraft: make every effort to keep The Dome standing.

That mission has since changed. For the better.

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With Schoolcraft and greater Kalamazoo-area community members watching and bidding their farewells, The Dome Sports Center cut the fans and deflated their massive athletic facility on Monday morning –– ending a memorable era and commencing a new chapter.

Since its inception in 1998, the 40,000-foot facility has long served Southwest Michigan’s athletes and community for sports training such as golf, softball and baseball, along with weight training.

“The number one mission around here for so long was whatever it takes to make sure The Dome keeps standing,” said Baird, The Dome’s owner since 2015. “And now, to (deflate) it on purpose feels a little bit strange … but at the same time, it really begins what we refer to as the next chapter here. And for us, it’s way bigger than just a bigger dome. It’s really about the ability to be part of bringing something unique and special to the greater Kalamazoo-area.”

Monday’s “Dome Deflation” celebration kicked off at 10 a.m., as Baird led the charge in powering down the fans and deflating The Dome which took just north of an hour. The celebration also included a free 1-mile fun run, lunch from the Library Taphouse & Kitchen and a grass volleyball tournament.

But also, it kicked off an expansion toward the future.

In The Dome’s place will be an all-new expansion, which will be nearly twice as big and include additions such as on-site volleyball and basketball courts, additional turf space, pickleball courts, updated infrastructure, a parent lounge and revamped handicap entrances and restrooms.

After building the campus’ Miracle Field in 2020, which was focused on serving athletes with disabilities, Baird said this project had a similar approach: welcome athletes of all ages and abilities.

“We tend to look at the physical attributes of an athlete, but there’s way more to an athlete and to a person than that,” he said. “We wanted to welcome all athletes of all ages and abilities and that’s what this next chapter is really about and why we’re so excited. We wanted to bring universal design principles with this new dome so that the accessibility is much better than it once was.

“We’ve added a personal airlock so if you have any type of aid, whether that’s wheelchair or walker or crutches, you’ll basically have a first-class experience in and out of the dome.”

Baird said that all of The Dome’s current programs will be mirrored with an adaptive component, so that every athlete of any ability will get to experience every sport.

Along with the volleyball, basketball and pickleball courts, there will also upgrades to The Dome’s golf training –– something that was of equal importance in the project, according to Baird.

“Our golfers have been a really important part of the heritage of The Dome and we wanted to expand their capabilities,” Baird said. “We’ve recently introduced TrackMan golf suites, and we’ve got some really cool announcements coming up in the fall where we’re going to continue to build on that foundation.”

TrackMan is a golf simulator experience, which gained traction for The Dome as of late. Larger pitching machines and cages will also be included in the expansion.

The expected completion date for the expansion is November 1, with the new dome set to be inflated in August.

With The Dome deflating, Baird looked back on fond memories like their first Miracle League game a few years back, along with hosting the Schoolcraft fireworks last year.

There’s over 30 acres at The Dome’s campus catering to various sports, but Baird said it’s the community that stays paramount through it all.

And it’s why the future of The Dome Sports Center is so bright, he said.

“We get to all be a part of a community that’s putting together something like this,” Baird said. “This really isn’t about us, it’s about the community and it always has been. All the things that have happened here have been a part of this, and a part of the awesome community in the greater Kalamazoo area.”

Read more here.

Discover Kalamazoo Sports

Discover Kalamazoo Sports

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Taya Pettis

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