The Tacoma Dome is a multi-purpose indoor arena located in the city of Tacoma in the US state of Washington. Having opened in April 1983, the Dome is undergoing a renovation project that will seek to ensure it remains competitive in the event hosting marketplace.

With work having commenced in June, TheStadiumBusiness spoke to director for Tacoma Venues & Events, Kim Bedier, about how the new-look Tacoma Dome will make the live event experience even better for guests and shows when the venue reopens in October.

TheStadiumBusiness: What is the projected cost and timeline for the redevelopment project and how will it affect capacity at the Dome?

Kim Bedier: “The cost of this revitalisation project is nearly $32m (£25.1m/€28m) with the largest portion of the budget going towards seating. We are replacing original wooden stadium benches with state of the art individual and telescopic seats.

“The new seating will allow quicker changeovers between events which gives us more available dates for booking. The effect on capacity is less than a couple hundred seats overall but the increase in patron comfort is immeasurable. The majority of the work will wrap up in early October.”

TSB: Who are the main partners behind the project?

KB: “The investment by the City of Tacoma is being carried out by contractors including Helix Design Group, Western Ventures Construction, JW Fowler Co and Irwin Seating.”

TSB: What is the overriding vision behind the project and what key goals does it have to achieve? How much of a factor is keeping the Dome competitive against other venues in the state, for example Seattle’s KeyArena and its own redevelopment plans?

KB: “The Tacoma Dome is much loved by the city and considered iconic in the region. The City of Tacoma determined to invest in the Dome as part of its 2025 strategic plan, which clearly recognised the value of cultivating a vibrant cultural sector as driven by feedback from citizens.

“City leadership is supporting investment in all of the city-owned facilities including our two historic theatres, stadium, convention centre and the Dome. The Dome continues to be the largest indoor venue in the state and this refresh will ensure it is not only competitive but comfortable. Most of this renovation is focused on enhancing the customer experience both front and back of house. It ensures that Dome will maintain its iconic status for years to come.”

TSB: What will be the main design features of the new look Dome?

KB: “The good news is the iconic roof will not change! Exterior cladding will be added to the lower portion of the arena, designed to provide a connection to the exposed beams of the interior of the Dome’s roof.

“Event level restrooms will be upsized and redesigned, while new artist quarters or dressing rooms will provide closer and more direct access to the stage. There will be new loading docks and new seating giving more than half the guests six inches in additional legroom. There will also be safety and security enhancements.

“We also have entered into a new agreement with Aramark to manage food and beverage operations and they are making capital investments to enhance both backstage catering and food service throughout the venue. They are redesigning all concessions with new brand concepts, electronic menu boards, healthy food options and additional points of sale.”

TSB: In what ways will the new-look arena stand apart when compared to other venues in the state and further afield?

KB: “With little change to the capacity, the venue will remain the largest indoor arena in the state and continue to rank among the finest concert venues anywhere. The Dome is already one of the highest attended venues in North America and the world. It was ranked No.12 in North America based on Pollstar mid-year charts published last month.”

TSB: What sort of technology will be incorporated into the new-look arena?

KB: “Improvements to the sound and lighting systems will be made during this renovation and digital menu boards will be added before we reopen in October. We previously added a robust Wi-Fi and DAS system, partnering with Mobilitie. At a recent concert, over 17,500 users were able to be active simultaneously.”

TSB: What have been the key challenges associated with the project to date and how have they been overcome?

KB: “Modernising a 35-year-old venue, we really had to focus on what would make the most impact in improving fan experience and enhancing the tour experience. We have maximised our budget by keeping these considerations at the forefront.

“Replacing storerooms and back of house operational areas with artists’ quarters meant a thoughtful reconsideration of work areas, ultimately improving back of house traffic patterns. Working with 35-year-old blueprints perhaps provided the greatest challenge, but everyone has been flexible in adapting to ‘surprises’.”

TSB: What are your hopes for the future of the project? 

KB: “The Tacoma Dome is synonymous with the city and the region itself in the minds of Puget Sound residents and visitors. At 35 years old and having welcomed more than 25 million people through its doors, we are hard pressed to find anyone that doesn’t have a ‘Tacoma Dome memory’.

“We hear stories about people who graduated on stage at the Dome, or played in a state high school basketball championship or met their significant other at a concert. There is joy in knowing that this revitalisation means the Tacoma Dome will continue to positively impact lives for years to come.”

TSB: What are the immediate next steps or priorities for the project at present?

KB: “We are about halfway through construction now. Upper bowl seating installation has been completed and lower seating is being assembled. The loading docks are underway. Concession technology is being installed now. Restrooms and artist quarters have been roughed in and we plan for an on-schedule opening in early October.”

TSB: How will the project benefit the arena from a revenue-generating perspective and are there any projections on this front?

KB: “We anticipate an increase in available event days due to the quicker turnaround time as well as additional parking revenue. With additional points of sale at concessions, we also anticipate an increase in food and beverage revenue. Additional shows mean an increase in tax revenue to the city but we also know that when the Dome hosts events it tremendously impacts the surrounding community.

“Hotel occupancy on show nights is at 97 per cent (at increased rates) and more than 37 per cent of our guests travel more than 50 miles to attend an event. A quarter of our guests report paid accommodations so we know that this investment in the Dome is one that will pay dividends to the entire region.”

TSB: How will the redevelopment benefit the Dome in terms of the calibre of events it is able to attract?

KB: “The Dome is the largest indoor arena in the state so by virtue of size we are fortunate to attract many of the top tours. For example, in 2017 eight of the top 25 North American tours and five of the top 25 worldwide tours played the Dome. In addition to improving the fan experience, improving the experience for touring personnel is one of the key goals of the project and we think they will take notice the moment they pull up to our new loading docks.”

TSB: Are there plans for any further development at the site?

KB: “The City of Tacoma is reviewing a proposal from Top Golf to purchase nearly 11 acres adjacent to the Dome. The Dome District where the Dome is located is based around a major transit hub where the first of several apartment complexes has broken ground. We see our investment as a show of faith in the neighbourhood for the long term and are excited for the increased vibrancy and energy to follow.

“One of the 10 fastest growing metro areas in the country, more than $1bn in investment is being made in the Tacoma area with redevelopment of the historic brewery district, accessible by free light rail to the Tacoma Dome, along with new housing, office and mixed use space, and several hotels including a 300-room hotel adjacent to the Greater Tacoma Convention Center.”

Images: Tacoma Dome