In “The Land of the Midnight Sun” of Alaska, where temperatures can become bitterly cold and towering piles of snow can accumulate, the Alaska Dome in Anchorage provides an environment in which high schools can hold a myriad of athletic activities on a year-round basis.

The unique air-supported structure, which measures 601 feet long by 290 feet wide and 87½ feet tall, is North America’s largest structure of its kind. Inside are a variety of athletic amenities, including 113,000 square feet of turf and one of the only indoor 400-meter tracks in the world.

Utilizing those facilities is the Anchorage School District and its eight high schools (Anchorage Service, Anchorage South, Anchorage East, Anchorage Bartlett, Anchorage West, Eagle River, Eagle River Chugiak and Anchorage Dimond). Overseeing their athletic operations is Derek Hagler, who is in his ninth year as high school activities supervisor for the Anchorage School District.

“We use the Alaska Dome for a variety of things,” Hagler said. “Here in Alaska, we can have snow on the ground or wet ground well into April. As such, that makes it difficult for our teams to practice outside. The Dome gives our kids a place to actually practice somewhere that’s not covered with snow. Doing a practice in a gym just isn’t the same as outside.

“We hold soccer, baseball and softball practices in there, as well as early-season track practices both at the high school and middle school levels. We also hold some Anchorage high school track meets there.”

“During the winter months, our 78 gyms are filled to capacity,” Anchorage Public Schools Superintendent Carol Comeau said. “I can honestly say that the Dome has been a wonderful addition for our athletes to practice inside year-round.”

With the Alaska Dome’s Web site touting an ongoing forecast of “Clear skies and 60 degrees,” the Dome’s amenities are second to none. Its six-lane, 400-meter, all-rubber track incorporates the same materials used in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, and is considered by many world-class athletes to be the finest track ever installed in the United States.

It is meet-capable, with a discus/shot ring, jumping pits, high jump, pole vault, staging areas and spectator seating, along with shower-equipped locker rooms.

The turf is made of heavy-duty Evergreen Synthetic turf, creating the premier indoor playing field in the state of Alaska.

One of the high school events held there is the annual Al Aska Shriners North-South All-Star Football Classic. Now in its 34th year, it features teams composed of the state’s best high school senior football players. It is held in late October, a week following the Alaska School Activities Association state football championship games. The proceeds of the game go directly to support the Shriners Hospitals for Children, which are currently treating more than 700 children. In 2010, an all-star girls flag football game was held for the first time prior to the boys game.

The Dome, which is open seven days a week, is also available to the public. In addition to soccer, baseball, softball and football, the sports of rugby, lacrosse and kickball may also be played in the Dome. It supplies batting cages, goals, bases and pitching mounds, and serious and recreational runners and walkers alike use the track.

Throughout the year, the Dome offers various organized sports activities. Among those are flag football leagues for boys and girls aged five to 17, youth baseball, men’s and women’s flag football, club soccer and the AlaskaFit Fitness BootCamps. 

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