Know Your Stadiums – Idaho’s Kibbie Dome

September 25, 2014 · By · Filed Under Football 
A view inside the Kibbie Dome from the end zone. It shows the hanging field goal posts. Photo:

A view inside the Kibbie Dome from the end zone. It shows the hanging field goal posts. Photo:

We like to spotlight the story and history behind any new stadium that the Jaguars are set to visit. This week the Jags travel to Idaho to visit the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho. It is a one-of-a-kind domed stadium that only diehard college football fans know anything about.

The University of Idaho’s unique stadium is officially known as the William H. Kibbie-ASUI Activity Center or more commonly known simply as the Kibbie Dome. It seats 16,000 which makes it the smallest venue in Division I FBS. It set a record with a crowd of 17,600 for their rivalry game against Boise State in 1989. It is situated with the field running east and west, but even with new translucent upper end walls that were completed in 2009 and 2011, sun location is not an issue.

The Kibbie Dome is a multi-purpose athletic stadium on the campus of the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho and is the hope of the Idaho Vandals. It is used for intercollegiate competition in four sports: football, basketball, tennis and indoor track and field.

The story of the Kibbie Dome begins in 1937 with the wooden Neale Stadium which was used between 1937 – 1968. The dome was built in stages over several years. Originally the new stadium was to be outdoors and seat over 23,000 spectators with an adjacent 10,000 seat indoor arena for basketball.

Construction on concrete grandstands began in February 1971 after a fire destroyed the previously condemned wooden Neale Stadium. It had been condemned in the summer before the 1969 season due to soil erosion beneath the grandstands. The next two seasons the football team played its limited home schedule at Washington State University’s Rogers Field in Pullman. A fire heavily damaged Rogers Field’s south grandstands in April 1970. WSU moved all of it’s games to another stadium while Idaho played at Rogers for four “home” games in 1970.

A revised plan called for a smaller capacity football stadium that would be enclosed to allow use as a basketball arena, indoor track and tennis. The multi-purpose concept was used recently at Idaho State which opened in 1970.

Construction was delayed due to weather and put the opening a month behind schedule. The 1971 team played their first home game in Boise and their second two weeks later in Spokane. The uncompleted stadium debuted on October 9 with a 40-3 win over Idaho State in front of 14,200 spectators. It was the first game on campus in almost three years.

For the first four seasons from 1971 – 1974 the stadium was outdoors. In the summer of 1972 a Tartan Turf field was installed over a four-inch asphalt bed with a roll-up mechanism behind the west end zone. It was the first one-piece field in the world.

In November 1974 approval was granted by the board of regents to enclose the stadium. An arched roof and vertical end walls were completed in time for the 1975 season opener on September 27.

The enclosed stadium was renamed for William H. Kibbie, a construction executive from Salt Lake City and the primary benefactor of the project. He donated $300,000 in 1974 to initiate the funding drive. He was a student at UI for less than a month in 1936 when he withdrew due to family hardship.

At the time steel and aluminum were the products most used for domes and large unsupported structures. Trus-Joist, who bid on and won the contract, saw the stadium as a chance to demonstrate the strength, durability and economy of their engineered wood products. From final design to the end of construction the enclosure project took only 10 months and $1 million to complete. The roof won the “Structural Engineering Achievement Award” from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1976.

After the first season of football indoors, the asphalt underneath the field was covered with Tartan Polyurethane in January 1976. The first basketball game was played on January 21, 1976 and the first Vandal Invitational indoor track meet was held three days later.

The roof of the dome spans 400 feet from sideline to sideline and reaches a maximum height of 150 feet above the hashmarks.

Shortly after completion in 1975 problems began to arise with the roof’s exterior. The outer surface of hypalon and underlying polyurethane foam were improperly applied. A second attempt to seal the roof with Diathon was completed in the late 1970s but did not succeed. Leaks continued to occur and wood rot was potentially a problem by 1980.

An infrared scan of the roof in the spring of 1981 exposed that half of the roof was moist and the insulating foam was in bad condition. Various attempts to stop the leaks took place in 1981. Various finger pointing and threatening of legal action occurred until finally an out-of-court settlement was reached. A new superstructure made of composite materials was built over the existing roof and completed in the fall of 1982 and coincided with the completion of the East End addition which provided the entire athletic department with locker rooms, offices, a weight room, athletic training facility and equipment room. Previously the football and basketball teams as well as visitor teams had to dress in Memorial Gym and make a lengthy walk or run west towards the Kibbie Dome, often in rain or even snow, which had been the practice since the opening of Neale Stadium in 1937.

In February of 2007, the state board of education appropriated funds to study expansion possibilities. On December 6, the board approved funding to begin design work for $52 million in improvements which included expansion to 20,000 seats, lowering the playing field and other safety and spectator improvements to the stadium.

Upgrades began in 2009 with the west wall being replaced with a non-combustable assembly of translucent plastic panels on the upper half and opaque metal siding on the lower half. They added field level exiting to the new west wall, added handrails to the seating isles, smoke exhaust system and other safety and code mitigation. The second phase completed in 2011 with the replacement of the east wall. A new press box was constructed above the north grandstand and the former press box above the south grandstand became premium seating.

Up until 2007, the artificial turf could be rolled up at the bast of the west wall to expose the 93,000 square feet of polyurethane tartan surface which is used for indoor tennis and track and field. It has five lanes of of track that are 320 yards in length and includes 9 tennis courts lined on the infield. Basketball and volleyball courts are also lined on the tartan infield.

In 2007 the turf was replaced with RealGrass Pro which is an infilled synthetic turf similar to Field Turf. Unlike the field of old, it is not easily rolled up in a continuous reel so it has to be removed in sections. Each section is five yards in width and run from sideline to sideline. They are attached to each other with velcro.

The basketball configuration is positioned at midfield on the south sideline in front of the press box and south grandstand with temporary seating on the other three sides. The main court was originally a smooth, hard tartan rubber poured directly onto the pavement floor which was a big home court advantage in the early 1980s. After eight seasons it was replaced with a conventional hardwood floor in the fall of 1983.

During basketball games the stadium is referred to as the Cowan Spectrum after Bob and Jan Cowan who financed the configuration.


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