Our opinion: Dome’s debut was just the beginning; Teamwork needed to tap facility’s potential

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, December 16, 2015

An open house was held for the public Saturday morning for the new dome over Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

An open house was held for the public Saturday morning for the new dome over Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Much like the young athletes who will be using it, the new seasonal dome at Austin’s Wescott Athletic Complex is brimming with potential.But now it’s time for Austin to make good on the possibilities, and like any athlete, it’s likely going to take practice.

The dome was inflated over Art Hass Field last week, and the public got its first look inside the dome during an open house Saturday morning.

The initial reviews from those attending was largely positive. Coaches and athletes were excited to have a place to practice in the winter, and athletes and the public got to try out a wide range of activities: kickball, football, soccer, softball, baseball, bean bags and more. Several young families were also out to try various activities like a bouncy castle and more.

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The dome was part of a $5.2 million project that also included installing artificial turf on both Wescott fields, and the dome ties in with Vision 2020’s project to build a new community rec center. Austin Public Schools contributed $2.5 million from school reserves, and The Hormel Foundation donated $2.7 million.

The schools, Vision 2020 and The Hormel Foundation deserve applause for making the dome a reality. From anyone attending Saturday, it was easy to see the project has been a good one thus far. Those attending were legitimately excited and pleased with facility.After seeing hundreds of people using the facility on Saturday, it’s easy to see how the dome will be an asset to Austin.

But this is just the beginning, and lot of the heavy lifting is still to come.

All the groups involved and the public will need to remain mindful and active to ensure the facility reaches its full potential — and that’s something that isn’t going to happen overnight.

The key in fulfilling the potential is usage. No one wants the dome sitting empty and unused. Plans are in the works already. Austin Public Schools Facilities Coordinator Dan Ball — who can be reached at 507-460-1928 or dan.ball@austin.k12.mn.us — will be in charge of booking events, and he’ll be one of the people helping coordinate open hours. Initial hours for walking are likely going to be 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, but some details still need to be ironed out.

Austin Park and Rec is kicking off some adult leagues (Kim Underwood’s Sunday column in the Herald has been outlining details on this), and more are soon to follow.

But with anything new, plans are still in the works and are still fluctuating. Teamwork will be needed moving forward to ensure that the dome is successful.

A key part of making the dome successful will be to offer free open houses like Saturday to ensure that the dome isn’t restricted to walkers, Austin High School athletes, and those who can afford to rent it. Those plans are already in the works, as Ball has said it’s possible Park and Rec, the YMCA and other groups could host additional open houses like the one this past Saturday.

We urge the schools, Vision 2020 and others to ensure the public has ample opportunities to utilize the dome, and we urge the public to take advantage of those opportunities when they’re offered.

The dome appears primed for a good future in Austin, it will take teamwork to fully realize that potential.