Community Center Unveils Innovative Inflatable Dome for Year-Round Pool Use

Get a video tour of the new Community Center Dome! Click on the YouTube link above to learn all about it (photos and video S Jason Cole).

Excelsior Springs Community Center made a splash with its latest addition – an inflatable dome over the outdoor pool. This innovative installation transforms the pool into a year-round facility, a move that’s been warmly welcomed, especially as it enables the school district to develop a swim and dive team.

This development has generally been met with enthusiasm, but there’s been a ripple of concern among some community members who took to social media to question the dome’s safety. In an effort to address the community’s concerns, Drake Pollard, Assistant Director of Excelsior Springs Parks and Recreation (ESPRCC), met with the Excelsior Citizen for a tour of the dome and an explanation of the safety features.

The primary challenges for air-supported structures like the Excelsior Springs dome are internal air pressure, wind, and snow build-up. Modern domes are designed with advanced computer-controlled systems that adjust inflation to compensate for these forces. High-quality structures can withstand wind speeds up to 120 mph and snow weights up to 40 pounds per square yard. The risk of sudden collapse is very low, as these structures typically show gradual deformation under heavy loads, providing ample warning before any potential failure​.

Historical data and modern engineering practices suggest fears about the Community Center’s new dome may be mostly unfounded. Inflatable domes have been widely used for various applications, including sports and recreation, since the 1970s. However, it’s important to acknowledge that no structure is immune to extreme conditions. The American Society of Civil Engineers has revised guidelines for air-supported domes, emphasizing the need for designs that can effectively manage snow loads without relying on manual removal. 

At Excelsior Springs, Pollard explained that the dome’s design incorporates these safety standards and more. “Our dome is engineered to withstand severe weather conditions, and we have multiple backup systems to maintain pressure and temperature, providing both comfort and safety,” he said.

Pollard then dove into the technicalities of the dome’s design, particularly its airlock system. “It’s built to withstand power outages, maintaining inflation with its electric and natural gas systems,” he explained. He reassured that additional generators are on standby to step in if needed.

Addressing concerns about weather-related issues, particularly snow loads, Pollard explained that the dome’s structure is designed to handle such conditions. “It’s equipped with a double-layer insulation system, acting like a defrost system to prevent snow accumulation,” he said. The dome also has a weather mode that automatically adjusts its pressure in response to strong winds, enhancing its stability during storms.

Beyond the technicalities, Pollard expressed enthusiasm about the broader impact of the dome. “We’re looking forward to starting swim lessons and potentially a community swim team, offering new job opportunities for our youth,” he said. He highlighted the collaborative effort behind the project, involving staff, contractors, and the school district. “The main excitement about the dome is creating new opportunities for our community, especially for our kids,” he concluded.

As this is the first year the dome has been installed, the community center staff are taking their time to ensure all aspects of the dome’s preparation are perfect. ESPRCC director Nate Williams said he anticipates the official opening of the dome to be sometime after the first of the new year. In the future, and with more experience, he said he expects the transition to go more quickly.

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