|The Kibbie Dome (2010)|
In 1968 the University of Idaho’s historic wooden stadium (Neale Stadium) was condemned and a year later it was torched by an arsonist. Eventually Neale Stadium was rebuilt using reinforced concrete and renamed Idaho’s New Outdoor Stadium, all of this was in-time for the 1971 football season. For some odd reason it was decided to incase the new stadium in a barrel vault dome; this was done throughout 1974 and the Kibbie Dome opened its doors for the 1975 football season. The Athletic Department made the jump from the FCS to the FBS in 1996 and as a result the Kibbie Dome needed an expansion to meet FBS minimums, so the Vandals spent their first two years as an FBS squad playing at nearby Martin Stadium as the Kibbie Dome was being expanded.
|Put a roof on it!|
The Kibbie Dome reopened her doors in 1998 with a total of 18,000 permanent seats (the smallest in the FBS). For the Kibbie Dome (and Vandal football) the jump to FBS has not been kind, as the team struggled to gain relevance in the Western Athletic Conference (the WAC) attendance remained down. Attendance, along with success on the gridiron, has continued to be an issue in the Dome. Despite these struggles the Dome has undergone a few renovations in the last three years. During the summer of 2009 the West End of the Dome received a rebuild and translucent panels; the East End received the same during the summer of 2010. Following the conclusion of the 2010-2011 Indoor Tennis season the Dome was gutted and the press box was moved to the opposite side of the building and the Lighthouse Center (luxury seating) was added were the press box used to be. These renovations reduced the Kibbie Dome’s capacity to 16,000 which barely meets FBS minimums for attendance/total capacity.
Despite these shortcomings for football, the Dome is successfully used for many other purposes that have to be taken into account with regards to renovations. After the conclusion of football season the Dome is converted into the Cowen Spectrum, the home of men’s basketball. The building also hosts indoor track and indoor tennis. The Kibbie Dome is also Moscow’s event center and is almost always in use. All of these were factors in the decision to renovate (not replace) the Kibbie Dome in 1996. And now, may lead to the University of Idaho rejoining the Big Sky Conference (FCS) as the WAC disintegrates.
The conference expansion madness of the last few years has been interesting, to say the least. And a few conferences benefited from it (Big-10, Pac-12, ACC, Big East, MWC and the SEC) and many did not (MWC, Big East, Big-12 and the WAC). The WAC has absolutely been decimated by conference expansion; it lost its most important member in Boise State last year and is also looking at the defections of New Mexico, Hawaii, Utah State and San Jose State (all current members). But that’s not even the worst part, the WAC (which had announced that Texas State would be making the jump to the FBS to join their conference for the 2013 year) watched as this new school jumped ship before even playing a game in its new conference. All of this leaves the WAC with only two football playing members New Mexico State (which the Sun Belt Conference is looking at adding) and Idaho.
If the New Mexico State to Sun Belt rumors are true that leaves the WAC with one football playing member (Idaho) and five total members (Seattle, Denver, University of Texas at Arlington and Idaho) in 2014. Even if New Mexico State stays, the WAC is in trouble. Its viability as an FBS athletic conference is completely shot and its smaller/newer member schools are left, trying to hold it all together. Seattle University and the University of Denver are in big markets and should be able to land new conference homes pretty easily. New Mexico State is probably waiting for the Sun Belt to make its move. And Idaho is just sitting in its little Dome, wondering how it is going to get out of this sticky situation.
|Possible Expansion of the Kibbie Dome, from the Lighthouse Center|
Fortunately for the Vandals their Athletic Director Rob Spear has a general plan in place. And believe it or not, the essential part of that plan is not adding seats to the Kibbie Dome. No, the most essential part of his plan is to build an event center to move basketball and many of the concerts and events out of the Kibbie Dome, making the addition of more football seats an easier proposition. However, for either of those to happen Spear will have to get both plans past the State Board of Education (which nearly shot down the 2009-2011 renovations of the Kibbie Dome). And both of these plans will have to be in motion as soon as possible so Idaho can remain an option for other FBS conferences during this era of expansion. Otherwise they could find themselves back in the Big Sky, completely wrecking any chance of expanding the Dome.