Tacoma Dome opens its doors on April 21, 1983.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/30/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5154

On April 21, 1983, the Tacoma Dome opens its doors as one of the largest wood domed structures in the world. It is owned and operated by the City of Tacoma's Public Assembly Facilities Department and can accommodate up to 23,000 seats in a variety of configurations.

Construction of the 152-foot-high dome involved 1.6 million board feet of lumber (all supplied by the Weyerhaeuser company), and enough concrete to build a sidewalk 70 miles long. Cost of construction was $44 million. The Dome uses the Varax system developed by Hollis Scott and Marshall Turner of Western Wood Structures of Beaverton, Oregon. The system makes a framework out of triangular units of timber laminated and glued together, called glulams. Each of these prefabricated triangular units weighs 5,000 pounds, and there are 288 of them in the structure. The glulams, made from old growth Douglas fir from Oregon, are connected by steel hubs and held together at the base by a concrete tension ring.

The design and construction team, Tacoma Dome Associates, included lead architect McGranahan, Messenger Associates, contractor Jimmy Zarelli (Merit Company), and Marshall Turner and his Western Wood Structures.

The first sporting event scheduled for the new facility was the World's Toughest Rodeo, which took place from April 29 to May 1, 1983. The first musical event was David Bowie on August 11, 1983. The venue quickly turned Tacoma into the music capital of the Northwest with stars such as Dolly Parton, Prince, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Diamond making appearances there. It also became the favored venue for state and regional high school sports events.

The implosion of the Kingdome in Seattle on March 26, 2000, made the Tacoma Dome the largest in the state.


Sources: Jim Cour, "Tacoma Dome Proves Its Value To Washington," The Columbian (Vancouver), Sports Page, February 20, 2001; Blaine Johnson, "Tacoma Dome Will Be Hosting Prep. Pro Action," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 22, 1983, p. B-2; Tacoma Dome: Build By and For the People of the City of Tacoma, Washington ed. by Kenneth Robinson (Tacoma: Robinson Publishing, [1983, commemorative volume upon opening]), 49.

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