Kibbie Dome

Kibbie Dome
Kibbie-ASUI Activity Center
Kibbie Dome,
Cowan Spectrum (basketball)
Kibbie Dome's west side in 2010
Former names (outdoors)
new "Idaho Stadium" (1971–74)
Neale Stadium (1937–68) - wooden
Location S. Rayburn St.,
Moscow, Idaho 83844
 United States
Coordinates 46°43′35″N 117°1′5″W / 46.72639°N 117.01806°W / 46.72639; -117.01806Coordinates: 46°43′35″N 117°1′5″W / 46.72639°N 117.01806°W / 46.72639; -117.01806
Broke ground February 1971
Opened September 27, 1975 (1975-09-27) (age 36)

October 9, 1971 (1971-10-09) (age 40)
as new "Idaho Stadium" - (outdoor)
Owner University of Idaho
Operator University of Idaho
Surface RealGrass Pro - (2007– )
AstroTurf - (1990–2006)
Tartan Turf - (1972–89)
Natural grass - (1971, 1936–68)
Construction cost $4 million
Architect CSHQA
Capacity Football: 16,000
Basketball: 7,000 (Cowan Spectrum)
Idaho Vandals (NCAA)
(1975–present, 1971–74, 1936–68)

The William H. Kibbie-ASUI Activity Center (more commonly known as the Kibbie Dome) is a multi-purpose indoor athletic stadium in Moscow, Idaho, on the campus of the University of Idaho. It is the home of the Idaho Vandals of the Western Athletic Conference and is used for intercollegiate competition in four sports: football, basketball, tennis, and indoor track & field.

The Kibbie Dome opened as an outdoor concrete football stadium in 1971, built on the same site of the demolished wooden Neale Stadium (1937–68), seen in this early 1950s photo. In September 1975, after a barrel-arched roof and vertical end walls were added, the stadium became an enclosed facility.

With just 16,000 permanent seats, it is currently the smallest home stadium for college football in Division I FBS (formerly Division I-A). Since February 2001, the Kibbie Dome has been reconfigured for basketball games and is referred to as the Cowan Spectrum, seating 7,000. The elevation of the playing surface is 2,610 feet (800 m) above sea level.[1]



The stadium was built in stages and took several years to complete. Originally, the new football stadium was to be outdoors and seat over 23,000 spectators, with an adjacent 10,000 seat indoor arena for basketball. The PCAA conference had been launched in 1969 and Idaho was attempting to join, but political wrangling in the state legislature and subsequent budget cuts caused a change in the scope of the stadium project. This ensured that Idaho could not make the move to the PCAA; the Vandals remained in the Big Sky Conference with the other state schools, Idaho State and new member Boise State.[2]

The revised plan was for a smaller capacity football stadium, to be enclosed to allow use as a basketball arena (and indoor track and tennis as well). This multi-purpose concept had been recently used at Idaho State in Pocatello, where the Minidome (now Holt Arena) had opened in 1970.

Construction on the concrete grandstands started in February 1971,[3] after a fire destroyed the previously condemned wooden Neale Stadium in November 1969.[4] The stadium, which opened in 1937, had been condemned the summer before the 1969 season, and the Vandal football team played its limited home schedule for the next two seasons at WSU's Rogers Field in Pullman.

After a fire significantly damaged Rogers Field's south grandstand in April 1970, WSU moved all of its 1970 and 1971 home games to Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, but the Vandals remained at Rogers in Pullman for four "home" games in 1970. The Vandals' game with WSU on September 19 in Spokane was dubbed the "Displaced Bowl." [5] A lopsided 44-16 win for the Cougars, it was WSU's only victory in a stretch of 22 games.

Back in Moscow, construction delays in the spring put the new "Idaho Stadium" a month behind schedule. The 1971 Vandals played their first two "home" games well away from campus, in Boise for the opener and Spokane two weeks later. The stadium debuted on October 9th with a 40-3 victory over Idaho State; it was the first football game on campus in nearly 3 years. The Vandals went 8-3 in 1971, which included a school-record eight game winning streak, and won the Big Sky title. For its first four seasons (1971–74), the stadium was outdoors. In the summer of 1972, a Tartan Turf field was installed, with a roll-up mechanism behind the west end zone. The arched roof and vertical end walls were completed in time for the 1975 football season's home opener on September 27, a deflating 14-29 loss to Idaho State.

The enclosed stadium was renamed that year for William H. Kibbie, a construction executive from Salt Lake City and a primary benefactor of the project; he contributed $300,000 to initiate the funding drive.[3][6] Bill Kibbie (1918–88), originally of Bellevue in Blaine County, was a UI student for less than a month in 1936 when he withdrew due to family hardship.[7] He entered the construction business, then served as a B-24 pilot in World War II. He eventually headed a major contracting company in Utah.[8] The acronym "ASUI" is for the "Associated Students of the University of Idaho," the student government.

When the university announced it would enclose its football stadium, the fledgling Trus-Joist Company of Boise bid on and won the project. While steel and aluminum were the products of the day for domes and large unsupported buildings, Trus-Joist saw the UI stadium as a chance to demonstrate the strength, durability, and economy of their engineered wood products. From the final design to the end of construction, the enclosure project took just 10 months and $1 million to complete. In 1976, the Kibbie Dome roof won the "Structural Engineering Achievement Award" from the American Society of Civil Engineers.[9] TJ International, the successor to Trus-Joist, was acquired by Weyerhaeuser in late 1999.[10]

The Kibbie Dome's roof spans 400 feet (120 m) from sideline-to-sideline, and its maximum height is 150 feet (46 m) above the hashmarks. (Holt Arena, on the campus of Idaho State University in Pocatello, has an opposite geometry: its arched roof spans the length of the football field, rather than its width, resulting in a very low roof at the end lines and goal posts.)

Soon after completion, problems arose with the roof's exterior. The 4.5-acre (1.8 ha) outer surface was applied as a sprayed foam, and was found to be unsuitable for the extended annual temperature range of northern Idaho. The significant expansion and contraction caused fractures; leaks were occurring and wood rot was a potential problem by 1980. After an extended period of finger-pointing and threatened legal action, an out-of-court settlement was reached. A new superstructure with a composite roof was built over the original. Completed in the summer of 1982, the second roof shielded the first and solved the problem.


The Kibbie Dome officially seats just 16,000 for football, making it the smallest venue in Division I FBS (formerly Division I-A). A record crowd of 17,600 was recorded for a game with Boise State in November 1989, during the school's I-AA Big Sky era. The football field runs east-west, but even with the new translucent upper end walls (2009 and 2011), sun location is not a major visibility issue.

For two and a half seasons, 1999-2001, the Vandals used WSU's Martin Stadium in nearby Pullman as its home field, as Idaho transitioned back to Division I-A from Division I-AA. When Dennis Erickson returned as head coach in 2006, there was talk of adding a second deck to the Kibbie Dome to increase the football seating to 25,000, and building a new basketball arena. In February 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, including an expansion to 20,000 seats, lowering the elevation of the playing field, and other various safety and spectator improvements.[11]

When not used for football, the former AstroTurf football field was rolled up in about an hour to reveal 93,000 square feet (2.13 acres, 0.86 hectares) of polyurethane tartan surface, used for indoor tennis and track & field. The five-lane track is 290 meters (317 yd) in length, and 9 tennis courts are lined on its infield. Basketball and volleyball courts are also lined on the tartan infield. The AstroTurf was spooled onto a large field-width reel at the base of the west wall.

In 1990, the original synthetic turf (Tartan Turf) of 1972 was replaced after 18 seasons. In the summer of 2007, the Kibbie Dome's AstroTurf was replaced with RealGrass Pro, a next-generation infilled synthethic turf similar to Field Turf.[12] Unlike the carpet-like AstroTurf, the infilled synthetic turf is not easily rolled up in a continuous reel, and must be removed in sections. The turf sections are five yards (4.6 m) in width, running from sideline to sideline, attached to each other with velcro. Other stadiums with RealGrass Pro include Texas Stadium (the former home of the Dallas Cowboys), and the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Life and safety upgrades to the Kibbie Dome began in the spring of 2009. The west wall was replaced with a non-combustible construction assembly; translucent plastic panels on the upper half and opaque metal siding on the lower. Concurrent with the end-wall replacement, a range of interior life safety work took place: field level exiting in the new west wall, addition of handrails in the seating aisles, provision of the required smoke exhaust systems; and other life safety and code mitigation improvements. The second phase of the project was completed in 2011 with the replacement of the east wall. A premium seating area (Litehouse Center) was established in 2011 in the former press box area above the south grandstand; a new press box was constructed above the north grandstand.


The stadium has also served as the home of the Vandal basketball teams, providing increased seating capacity over the venerable Memorial Gym (built in 1928), a block to the east. The basketball court is positioned at midfield on the south sideline, in front of the press box and the south grandstand, with temporary seating on the north, east, and west. The main court was originally smooth tartan rubber, poured directly onto the concrete floor, resulting in very hard and unforgiving surface. After eight seasons it was replaced with a conventional hardwood floor in the fall of 1983.

During basketball games, the converted Kibbie Dome is now referred to as the Cowan Spectrum, named for Bob and Jan Cowan, who financed the current configuration. Since February 2001, the new basketball layout has been separated from the rest of the stadium by massive black curtains to give the court a more intimate "stadium-within-a-stadium" feel, with a reduced seating capacity of 7,000. Temporary Daktronics scoreboards are placed over the north and south stands during games. (video)

During the early 1980s, with Don Monson as head coach (the father of current Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson; both are UI alumni), the Kibbie Dome was considered one of the 20 toughest home courts in college basketball by Sports Illustrated. Additional temporary seating was gradually increased on the north basketball sideline and attendance exceeded 11,000 for several games during the 1982-83 season.[13][14] From January 1980 to February 1983, the Vandals won 43 consecutive games at the Kibbie Dome,[14] and Monson's home record in his final four seasons was 51-2 (.962). The venue hosted three Big Sky Conference men's basketball tournaments (by winning the regular season title), in 1981, 1982, and 1993. (The Vandals departed the Big Sky for the Big West in 1996, then to the WAC in 2005.)


The east side of the Kibbie Dome features the East End Addition (center), the Vandal Athletic Center (right), and SprinTurf practice fields. (2008)

Since its enclosure in 1975, the Kibbie Dome has undergone several significant additions. In August 1982, the East End Addition was completed, providing the entire athletic department with locker rooms, offices, a weight room, athletic training facility, and equipment room.

In April 2004, the facilities were again enhanced with the addition of the 8,000-square-foot (740 m2) Vandal Athletic Center, home to the Norm and Becky Iverson Speed and Strength Center; the renovation of the men’s and women’s basketball, football, and volleyball locker rooms, and the addition of a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool (ARC).[15]

Adjacent practice fields

August 2005 saw the installation of infilled SprinTurf on the former natural grass practice field east of the Kibbie Dome. The days of "off-limits" were eliminated, as UI students acquired state-of-the-art playing fields available for year-round use. A field that previously had just 300 usable hours annually as an "intercollegiate athletics only" field (primarily for natural turf varsity football practice), is now available for up to 2000 hours per year. The project was funded through the Kibbie Dome turf replacement fund; the $1.2 million SprinTurf project included lighting and fencing.

The two 75-yard (69 m) fields are adequate for team practice for football (and soccer, lacrosse, rugby, and other sports) as well as for intramural competition, but short enough to have two fields in the space available. Each field is a full half-field (with end zone & goal post) plus an additional 15 yards (13.7 m) beyond the 50 yard line. An unmarked 10-yard (9.1 m) median separates the two fields; the total length, with end zones, is 160 yards (150 m) and runs north-south. The former natural turf fields were lined as a regulation football field running north-south, with a half field at the north end running east-west. An added benefit of the synthetic surface is an estimated $50,000 annual savings in field maintenance costs.[16]

Nearby facilities

Kibbie Dome from the far west in 2007.

On the west side of the Kibbie Dome is the Dan O'Brien outdoor track & field stadium, built in the early 1970s and renamed in 1996 for the Olympic gold medalist world champion and former world record holder in the decathlon. A concrete grandstand at the finish area (southeast corner) has a seating capacity of 1,000. The facility is undergoing a major renovation in 2011 to host the WAC outdoor championships in 2012.[17] South of the Dome is the university's 18-hole golf course, a challenging track due to its rolling Palouse terrain. A par-72 course with terraced fairways and significant changes in elevation, its back tees measure 6,637 yards (6,069 m), with a course rating of 72.4, and a 135 slope rating.[18] The course opened in 1936 with nine holes, expanded from 1968-70, with the present clubhouse opening in 1969.[19] To the east is the Memorial Gymnasium (1928), the swim center and the physical education building (both 1970), and six outdoor tennis courts. Four additional tennis courts are on the east side of campus, at the southeast corner of the Administration Lawn.

About a half mile north (800 m) of the Dome are expansive natural grass intramural fields, west of the Wallace dormitories. Included here is the women's soccer field, in the far northwest corner bounded by Perimeter Road. Towards the center is Guy Wicks Field, the baseball field since the late 1960s. (Baseball was dropped as a varsity sport after the 1980 season, after more than 80 seasons, but continues as a club sport.)


External links

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