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New inflatable roof part of $2 million overhaul at Tonawanda golf dome

After 17 years, the Town of Tonawanda will raise a new roof on its Paddock Chevrolet Golf Dome.

This work is the central part of a major, $2 million reconstruction of a landmark visible to thousands of drivers each day on the I-290 and a profit center for the town.

Town officials said inspections show the inflatable fabric dome and its anchoring cables have worn to the point that they need replacing.

“It’s lived its shelf life,” said Daniel Crangle, chairman of the Town Board’s Youth, Parks and Recreation Committee.

The Town Board voted Monday night to borrow $2.5 million to pay for the project. Work could begin this fall and wrap up by the time the dome reopens for the 2019-2020 season.

The project should cost closer to $2 million but the town has added $500,000 to the bond as a cushion in case of overruns or unanticipated expenses, said Crangle and Mark Campanella Sr., the town's director of Youth, Parks and Recreation.

The town spent $2.9 million to build the Paddock Chevrolet Golf Dome and it was an immediate success when it opened in fall 1999 in Brighton Park. The dome features a two-tiered driving range, 18-hole miniature golf course, indoor chipping and putting green, The Grill at the Dome restaurant and SportZone golf simulator.

The latter two features are privately operated, but the town receives an annual payment. A pro shop closed some years ago.

The facility hosts birthday parties and lets soccer, softball and baseball teams rent the artificial turf for practices and games.

The dome’s original covering, made by Birdair, was damaged beyond repair by high winds during a February 2002 ice storm.

ASATI, which uses a different technology to build large fabric coverings, manufactured a replacement, and the Tonawanda facility reopened nine months later.

The nearly 17-year-old roof is 270 feet wide, 350 feet long and 82 feet high, or 94,500 square feet in all, Campanella said.


Four years later, the town was able to make repairs to the fabric covering and to the mini golf course after they were damaged in the days after the October Storm.

Tonwanda town workers help to straighten seams while making repairs on the Paddock Golf Dome following the October Storm in 2006. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Campanella said workers from his department conduct daily checks of the dome and perform regular maintenance at the facility.

The structure remains safe for use, but crews have noticed seams starting to split in the dome fabric and wear and tear on the cables that anchor the covering in place. That’s primarily due to Western New York winters.

Engineers from ASATI in September examined the structure and recommended, given the age of the dome, an extensive reconstruction.

At the urging of Supervisor Joseph Emminger, the town brought in Nussbaumer & Clarke to get a second opinion. The outside consultant agreed with ASATI’s findings, Crangle said.

In addition to a new dome covering and system of anchor cables, the town also plans to replace the artificial turf throughout the driving range area and in the mini golf course.

“It’s seen better days,” Campanella said.

The project also will replace doorways and other points within the dome where air is slowly leaking out.

The town already has installed a generator and a backup inflation system, Campanella said.

Dome technology has advanced significantly since 2002, and the new roof could have a 20-year warranty, Crangle said.

The town will put the project out to bid, and officials hope work can begin by fall at the dome, with a reopening before winter arrives. It takes about two months to manufacture the roof covering.

The dome remains popular with golfers and other users. The dome in 2018 cost $260,000 to operate and generated revenue of $650,000, a profit margin of nearly $400,000, Campanella said.

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