School district nearly prepared for domes; coaches approve

Jaraun Dennis shows the school board trustees a rendering of the district’s recently-acquired domes, which will be placed next to the practice field north of the school. (HERALD PHOTO/Hayden Godfrey)

EVANSTON — The Uinta County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees held a public forum Tuesday to discuss the domes they purchased in April of 2022.

The forum began with a presentation by Facilities and Technology Director Jaraun Dennis, accompanied by Brent Sanders, Crest LLC owner and engineer, who has consulted with the district throughout the project.

Dennis provided the trustees with context. “Last year we purchased these domes,” he said, “for about $300,000.” They were originally used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at their Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, adjacent to the Brigham Young University campus. Subsequently, the domes were shipped to Salt Lake City in preparation for sale to a company in New York. The company declined to purchase, and the domes have since been stored north of Santaquin, Utah.

“Through a contact, I was made aware of these, then started the procedure…” said Dennis. “The decision was made to go ahead and purchase those, with the caveat that the current owners would store those until this spring, and then we would transfer them up to [Evanston].”

Dennis and Sanders have been working on the domes’ placement since October, focusing both on location and cost. They have decided to place the structures where the high school’s tennis courts once stood, just north of the practice football field.

“Both of the domes we’re looking at have the same square footage, which would give us about 24,000 square feet,” Dennis said.

Both domes have access adherent to the Americans with Disabilities Act. They will also have an attached restroom and changing area.

“This would not only help those who are participating in the domes,” Dennis said, “but also during track events and football events, being able to have two facilities — one on the south side and one on the north side.”

Dennis then showed a rendering of the domes the MTC provided at the time they sold them.

“I think it shows some great opportunities for us as a district,” he said.

The domes can each seat approximately 300 people. They could thus be used for staff as professional development areas, by basketball and volleyball teams, and during PE classes. Dennis showed renderings for several activities.

The domes will be equipped with heating, cooling, electricity, plumbing and a backup generator. Dennis compared the cost of the domes, which works out to roughly $2 million, to that of an equally large brick and mortar building, which he estimated would cost between $15 million and $18 million. “Significantly, much, much cheaper,” he said.

The domes, he said, are rated to last between 12 and 15 years. “By the time we were to set these up, we’re probably looking at between nine and 12 years,” he said.

The domes are expected to be in Evanston by the end of March or beginning of April. The first reason they are needed that soon is so Dennis can take a proper inventory. The owner is also ready to move the domes and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment to Evanston.

Dennis expects a large burden to be removed from the district’s permanent buildings. The domes, he said, can accommodate virtually every activity, with the exception of swimming. John Williams, the district’s chief financial officer, spoke briefly on operating costs for the domes, which come out to an estimated $83,000 per year. Superintendent Ryan Thomas said all financial estimates are high.

“We don’t want to risk underestimating the cost of this project,” he said. He added, for the benefit of concerned taxpayers, that the project will have no effect on property tax.

Thomas said the project can be funded using a one-time expenditure from the district’s carryover fund. This would not affect staff pay or curriculum. He said the total annual cost, including a 10-year loan, will come out to $278,000.

Crystal Peterson was the first to speak during public comment, telling the board how important she thought the domes could be for students.

“If we could have those facilities, it would be a good use. … I think we’re here for the business of kids, and this is an opportunity to be able to do that for the kids, so I think it’s a good plan.”

Matt Morrow spoke next. He asked if, as president of the Evanston Outlaws baseball program, he would be able to access the domes and use them as batting cages and practice facilities for his team.

“As we travel around the state, every other program has these facilities. We’re one of the very few that [doesn’t],” he said.

School board chair David Peterson responded, “Most definitely.”

Jackie Skog asked where the third dome would go. Dennis responded by saying, “We actually have some pricing to construct that over at the Evanston Middle School field, which would be really ideal because it would also allow us to partner with the youth club and provide some activities for them.”

That dome is estimated to cost $876,000, and it would increase the district’s loan to $350,000. Dennis said he wants to wait for a bit, then put up the final dome within two years. If the board decides they want to install all three domes, Dennis has the plans put together.

“If all three were on the same site, that would be different,” he said, “but putting them up on two sites … that concerns me.”

Soccer coach Brian Richins said, “I can’t even express how good this would be to have these things up.” He thanked the board for approving the field they finished last fall, and said a turf field would help with practices in the winter. “It would be great to get the cleats out, see what the turf feels like in our practices, in our facilities, prior to our first competition,” Richins said.

Track coach and PE teacher Roy Barker said it would be beneficial to have a practice area more suitable than school hallways, with better supervision and less chance of being relocated by assemblies and other events taking place in the gym.

Volleyball coach Tera Lawlar thanked everyone who researched and facilitated the project, and also mentioned how Evanston’s Labor Day tournament is gaining popularity, but is logistically difficult due to space constraints. She said the domes would mitigate these concerns.

“Not only is that great for our kids, but it’s also great for our economy,” Lawlar said. She concluded, “Ditto, ditto, ditto to all the coaches who already came up.”

Girls’ soccer coach Karalyn Barton expressed her excitement to play both on the field and use the additional space provided by the domes. “These gyms are in high demand. … It is hard to find space in these gyms.”

Parent Katie Butler congratulated the coaches.

“Some of them are working with the same facilities, the same juggling act they worked with when I was in high school,” she said, adding that the coaches give students purpose. “I would hope that their jobs matter to all of you.”

Williams, the district’s CEO, returned to the mic to tell the board, if the two domes come out of the fund balance, it would reduce that balance to $3,021,000, a 36% decrease. He said it may be advisable to finance the project over 10 years. He said the approximate interest rate for the domes will be 7.5%, but he may be able to find a lower rate. He also advised the trustees about “creeps,” or additional fixtures which could raise the price.

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