LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Bryan Dempsey watched as a work crew wrestled Saturday morning (Jan. 17, 2009) with a portion of the new inflated dome that has risen next to the 422 Sportsplex, at the corner of Industrial Highway and Moser Road. Its job wasn’t easy. In bitter cold and a slight wind, four workers grabbed a heavy chain attached to a sheet of outer sheathing and strained to position it correctly.
It budged, but only a little. “That stuff’s tough,” Dempsey noted, referring to the strength of the white dome’s external skin. “You could go up to the top and sit down there,” he said, pointing to its peak, “and not make a dent.”
Dempsey, president of DeCo Management Corp. in Fort Washington PA, should know. His firm is the general contractor overseeing installation of the dome, beneath which lies a nearly full-size playing field of synthetic turf. Managers at 422 Sportsplex, owned by a company that operates similar facilities in Rockville MD and Sterling VA, hope to have it open for use within the next two weeks.
The dome’s bright, fiberglass-like fabric glistened under the morning sun, held aloft by the airstream from a huge fan at its west end. The bubble itself, at 1400 Industrial Hwy., has been enclosed and fully inflated for days; Saturday’s work focused on covering a separate, double-door entrance from the facility’s nearby parking lot.
Accompanying Dempsey on his rounds was Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township Fire Marshal Lew Babel. Although Babel was on site during this visit specifically for fire sprinkler and water flow tests, he’s been there frequently during installation. The structure’s unique shape and construction poses different, but not insurmountable, challenges for township emergency personnel he supervises, Babel noted. “Once I saw plans” for the dome, he said, “I knew I’d better come down and be familiar with it.”
The covered turf, according to Dempsey, is a 2-inch-thick, state-of-the-art mixture of rubber and fibers with supporting underlayment. The 75-yard by 50-yard surface “looks and plays like grass,” according to the 422 Sportsplex website. “It’s a real soft cushion,” Dempsey agrees, one that should be friendly year-round to soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey and other outdoor sports expected to be played there.
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