Phase I of UNI-Dome renovation officially underway to replace fabric roof

Phase I of UNI-Dome renovation officially underway to replace fabric roof

In an endeavor to rejuvenate the iconic UNI-Dome, Phase I of its renovation kicked off on a sunny Sunday morning, accompanied by sounds that could be heard by Cedar Falls residents for miles, and a spectacle that captured the attention of onlookers. A helicopter lifted materials around the perimeter of the Dome, signaling the beginning of its transformative journey.

The focus of Phase I involves replacing the center fabric of the UNI-Dome roof. The current portion was installed in 1998 with a 20-25 year life expectancy. 

Workers receiving materials being lowered onto UNI-Dome via helicopter

The helicopter lifted eight sections of fabric, composed of teflon-coated fiberglass, that are precut and tailored specifically for this project. The chopper also lifted hardware, tools and equipment needed for the work.

Mike Zwanziger, assistant vice president and director of facilities management at the University of Northern Iowa, shed light on the rationale behind employing a helicopter for the material lift. "A crane that would be able to reach all sides of the UNI Dome would be very expensive," Zwanziger explained. “Working with the contractor, this was determined to be the most economical way to get the product up to the roof of the Dome.”

Throughout the course of the summer, workers will overlay the new fabric atop the existing structure, preserving the roof’s watertight integrity throughout the renovation process. The fabric is installed over the top of a steel structure and tightened to give it tension, adding to its durability. 

“After this is installed and water tight, we’ll go to the underside and cut out the existing roof,” said Zwanziger, noting the new roof will be about six inches higher than the current structure. The fabric went through tests to withstand hail, wind and tears. “This is a really good product that we’ll have on the building for at least another 25 years.”

The timeline for Phase I extends through summer to the end of August, with completion of Phase I before the first UNI Panthers home football game. In addition to the fabric, crews will also replace the lightning suppression system of the facility and upgrade current safety systems. Initially presenting a cream hue upon installation, the fabric will gradually transition to the familiar white over the course of a few months.

“Our engineer, Walter P Moore, is a national engineering firm that has worked on several different stadiums,” said Zwanziger, noting those clients include SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, which hosts NFL teams LA Rams and LA Chargers. “They have a lot of experience with this roofing system. They’ve looked at what they’ve used throughout other stadiums, both collegiate, National Football League, soccer and more.”

The vision for the UNI-Dome renovation encompasses an array of enhancements in future phases of renovation, which encompass restroom upgrades, elevator accessibility improvements and upgrades to seating. Fundraising efforts and collaboration with UNI Athletics will steer the timeline for these subsequent phases.

Learn more about the renovation project at