A Dome of Our Own: The Tacoma Dome Story

In celebration of the Tacoma Dome’s recent renovation, we were invited to look through the archives at the Tacoma Dome to see what kinds of historical tidbits we could find. From David Bowie to the Backstreet Boys, Truckzilla to RV shows, the archives held all the Dome’s most cherished memories.

The story of how the Tacoma Dome actually came together was surprising and inspiring. We wrote up the whole story for the Dome’s new website. Read the rest of it and see more pictures here.

Below are just a few of the highlights:

Did you know?

  • The Tacoma Dome wasn’t the city’s first attempt at a world-class indoor event space. Various attempts, some more realistic than others, dated back to at least 1925.
  • 70% of Tacomans voted to approve the bond proposal that paid for the Dome.
  • The Tacoma Dome, and what used to be its parking lot, occupies what was once known as the Hawthorne neighborhood.
  • The only sporting event too big to be held in the Dome is baseball.
  • The design of the Dome was based on NAU’s SkyDome in Flagstaff, Arizona.
  • Construction on the roof started in February of 1982 and was finished by the following August.
  • Covering just over six acres of space, it was then the largest wooden dome in the world.
  • The Superior Dome took the title in 1991 by a measly six feet. The Tacoma Dome is still 12 feet taller and has nearly twice the seating capacity. So there.
  • The structure is made up of 1,982 glulam beams and purlins, held together by 18,798 bolts.
  • The roof is made of 28,512 2”x8” boards.
  • It took 323,150 nails to hold them all down and each one was hammered in by hand by a crew of only 20 men and women.
  • In April 1982, citizens of Tacoma were given an opportunity to write their names on the last 5,000-pound section of beams before being installed. The names are still visible.
  1. My dad (Roger Silva) is the carpenter in the last picture. He just retired in the begging of October.
    He had Beena an instructor at Renton Technical College for the Carpenters Union for quite some time now.
    I love this picture.

  2. I see myself,in one of the pictures, as a much younger man. I was fortunate enough to start the roof structure from the beginning to end and eventually go on to build two other domes in the Northwest. I still have the roof drawings from the project. I think my Family name is still visible at the very top. It was still there a couple of years ago. It was the very last beam set on the external portion of the dome.

    1. Hi Roger,

      My name is Freddy Monares and I’m a reporter at KNKX Public Radio. I would love to chat with you about your work on the Tacoma Dome ahead of its 40th anniversary next week. If you’re interested, please email me at fmonares@knkx.org and I can share more details.

      Thank you.

  3. I remember as a kid living on McKinley Hill watching the Tacoma Dome being built. Went to the grand opening and I couldn’t believe how bright it was in there. All those lights. My mother was hoping to see Ricky Nelson, but we either went on the wrong day or he was a no show. My mother sang in the choir when the Rev. Billy Graham came to the Dome a few weeks later. Been back a handful of times for events, the last being a Promise Keepers event in 1999.

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