Cleveland High School dome deemed unsafe - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cleveland High School dome deemed unsafe

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CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -

Part of Cleveland High School has been deemed unsafe. The Raider Dome is now blocked off due to structural issues. The decision to shut it down has struck an emotional cord among teachers, students and community members, but school officials say it poses too much of a danger for anyone to be inside.

The dome serves not only as the basketball arena, but also houses classrooms, a wellness center and locker rooms in the basement. School staff is working to clear everything out. School officials say the poor condition left no other choice. But a new facility is at least a couple of years and millions of dollars away.

Cracked walls and bowing bricks cover the Raider Dome at Cleveland High School.

"There's nothing between the brick and the concrete holding the dome up so it's just sitting as flat weight on top of the bricks," Director of Cleveland City Schools Martin Ringstaff said.

It was built in 1965 when building codes weren't what they are today. After decades of the heavy dome pressing down, architects and engineers deemed it useable only if wind gusts are less than 30 miles per hour or with less than two inches of snow or ice on the roof. School officials don't want to risk it.

"It's a hard decision for everyone from the culture of the dome, to the people who live in Cleveland, to the students who walk to the halls, to the alumni," Ringstaff said.

The school closed the dome officially one day before the start of basketball season. Orange barricades are stopping students from entering. For now, games are played the middle school.

"There was a lot of tears shed. I think a lot of those kids spent a lot of nights dreaming about playing in the dome," Girls Head Basketball Coach Mindy Kiser said.

"I completely understand why we have to and then you just have to break the news to those guys and it was pretty tough," Boys Head Basketball Coach Jason McCowan said.

"Just heartbroken. Four years I've been here at around all these people. When he told use it was getting torn down, it just hit me hard," senior Kendrick Thompson said.

Players cleaned out their lockers and abandoned the dome. Team supplies are piling up in Coach McCowan's classroom.

"Never thought I'd see it this way," Thompson said.

School officials say they understand the disappointment, but worry more about how much longer these walls will hold up the massive dome.

"It is hard but we have to separate the emotion from it and look at the practicality of the building being safe and we will never put students in unsafe conditions," Ringstaff said.

Ringstaff says even if it's possible to repair, it would likely cost just as much or more than building a new, bigger facility. Options will likely be discussed at the January 6th school board meeting. Then it would go to city council to approve funds, which will surely be several million dollars. If approved, he says the earliest they can demolish the dome is on summer break. Then it could take at least a year and a half to build new.

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