THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Friday, October 14, 1994 TAG: 9410130183 SECTION: VIRGINIA BEACH BEACON PAGE: 04 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY GREG GOLDFARB, CORRESPONDENT LENGTH: Medium: 88 lines
The Dome is gone. But rest assured, it won't be forgotten.
``I hope not,'' said Robyn Vasile, an elementary school art teacher who opposed the Dome's recent demolition. ``We had a building that was structurally sound, historically significant, scientifically amazing and mathematically dynamic. We don't want people to forget what we had.''
Months before cranes and bulldozers turned the nation's first geodesically designed civic center into scrap metal Sept. 9, plans were already under way to memorialize the Alan B. Shepard Civic Center, known affectionately for 35 years as the ``Dome.''
Ed DeWandel, assistant for support services in the city's Department of General Services, last May created and chaired a committee of mostly city employees who were brought together to help the community cope with the loss of one of its icons and to preserve its memory and place in history.
As a result, several activities are planned:
Placing a small, $200 to $250 granite memorial marker at the site on Pacific Avenue, between 19th and 20th streets,
Establishing archives in the Central Library,
Publishing a 40-page booklet about the Dome and its history,
Conducting a sculpture design contest for students
Selling posters and T-shirts.
``This was in response to public concerns about the Dome being demolished - sentimental reasons, I guess,'' said DeWandel.
Besides DeWandel and Vasile, committee members included: Mark Reed, with the Francis Land House; Karen Horner, convention and visitor development; Jeff Waller, public works; Jim Frantz, building maintenance; and Katherine Jackson, public information office.
DeWandel said that he was somewhat surprised at the emotional chord the Dome's passing struck in so many people.
``I didn't think there was that much feeling about the Dome,'' DeWandel said. ``Apparently, there is.''
DeWandel said his committee has about $4,500, and warns that with limited funds and space, plans to memorialize the Dome and its memorabilia will include carefully screening all items submitted for inclusion in any memorial exhibits or displays.
``If they donate it, they may not get it back and it may not be used,'' he said. ``We just don't have any place to put it.''
Collecting and reviewing the materials will be an ongoing process, DeWandel said, some of which will be on display in an environmentally controlled room for special documents at the library. An exact date as to when the items will be on display has not been set.
The Dome had been home to hundreds of local and national entertainment events. It was named after one of the space industry's pioneer astronauts, Alan Shepard, a former Bay Colony resident, said Vasile, who teaches her third-graders about Virginia Beach and its history.
Vasile said the Dome was torn down because its aluminum roof leaked constantly, there were continual electrical equipment problems, and after the Pavilion convention center was built in the early 1980s, it lost much of its business.
``I fought hard to keep the Dome open,'' said Vasile. ``But, a little too late.''
Vasile said city officials explored several options before deciding to raze it, including moving it to another location and perhaps creating a tourist/educational attraction. Finally, Vasile said, Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf called and told her that a decision had been made, and that the Dome was coming down.
Vasile is trying to raise corporate sponsorships for the sculpture contests, which will eventually allow the winning design to be built with pieces of the Dome's roof that were saved. She hopes that most of the committee's initial work will be completed within a year.
It is unclear how the now vacant site will be used. A parking lot has been proposed, as has a family-oriented entertainment facility. City Council has not said when it will ultimately decide.
In the meantime, Vasile has an idea. ``I'd be in favor of putting the Dome back up,'' she said. ``That would be a wonderful memorial to the Dome.'' ILLUSTRATION: Staff file photo by CHARLIE MEADS
On Sept. 9, an excavator reduced the Alan B. Shepard Civic Center,
alias the Dome, to bricks and crumpled metal.
CAN YOU HELP?
Do you have something to help memorialize the Dome? Call Ed
DeWandel at 427-4567 or Robyn Vasile at 479-1644.