KCS to Continue Closure of Buck Van Huss Dome; Awards Bid for Renovation of Gymnasium at Tribe Athletic Complex

During ongoing review by local and national engineering consultants, Kingsport City Schools (KCS) has continued the closure of the Buck Van Huss Dome at Dobyns-Bennett High School.  A Phase 1 report has now been received by KCS regarding the gymnasium’s wooden Lamella dome structure.  

The Phase 1 report has confirmed the initial testing information concerning the structural condition of the dome’s upper wooden compression rings.  Several observations and recommendations are contained in the Phase 1 report, indicating the need for the shoring of the dome’s upper compression rings and pursuit of a retrofit or replacement of the structure.  KCS will continue the closure of the gymnasium while such steps are pursued.

Due to the continued closure, Kingsport City Schools and the City of Kingsport have executed contingency plans to renovate the KCS gymnasium at the Tribe Athletic Complex (at the former Sullivan North High School) to prepare the facility for the upcoming Dobyns-Bennett High School basketball season and for long-term use by the Kingsport community and Kingsport City Schools.  On September 16, 2022, the KCS Board of Education and Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a bid by Preston Construction Company to perform such renovations.

The Fast Facts

  • While preparing for a campus-wide roofing project at Dobyns-Bennett, Kingsport City Schools executed structural testing during Summer 2022 on the wooden Lamella dome structure in the Buck Van Huss Dome.  Such testing was pursued as a proactive measure due to the material and age of the structure (wooden beams over 50 years old) prior to resurfacing of the dome roof.  Results of the initial test indicated reduced moisture content and density in the dome’s upper wooden rings.  Out of caution while seeking additional information, KCS and Dobyns-Bennett High School closed use of the gymnasium, relocating school and athletic activities to other areas of the D-B campus, the Civic Auditorium, and other locations in Kingsport.
  • During the week of August 15, 2022, engineers from Dome Technology (Idaho), a recognized leader in dome engineering and construction, visited the Dobyns-Bennett campus to physically inspect the dome structure and review the previously collected data.  The initial response from the engineers while on-site confirmed the previous decision to stop use of the dome out of an abundance of caution while a final analysis and report was produced.  
  • Officials with KCS and the City of Kingsport have executed contingency plans to renovate the KCS gymnasium at the former Sullivan North High School to prepare the facility for long-term use by the Kingsport community and Kingsport City Schools, as well as for the upcoming Dobyns-Bennett High School basketball season. A bid opening for such renovations occurred on Wednesday, September 14, 2022.  A bid submitted by Preston Construction Company was approved by the KCS Board of Education and the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen at called meetings on Friday, September 16, 2022.
  • A Phase 1 report has been returned to Kingsport City Schools from Dome Technology and Thompson & Litton Engineering.  While confirming the data provided during initial testing of the dome structure in Summer 2022, the report contained several observations and recommendations.  A summary of these observations and recommendations includes:
    • There are no alarming negative structural deflections, large cracks or settlements, and/or obvious defects in the dome structure.
    • There exist several typical cracks in the dome wood members that would normally be found in a structure of such type given the age and means/methods of building as existed when the dome was built.
    • There are no obvious signs of distress in any of the structural connections of the wood members in the dome.
    • There is a loss of structural capacity of the wood members above and including compression rings 4 and 5.  This was noted through observation and testing by Dome Technology.
    • It is recommended that the dome be shored above and including compression rings 4 and 5.  There is no reason to change the current recommendation that occupancy of the ancillary spaces near the gymnasium (pool, auxiliary gymnasium, classrooms) may occur while the shoring takes place.
    • It is recommended that the shoring fit snugly and be inspected with the consultation of local engineering expertise.
    • It is recommended that given the identified issues of structural capacity and the age/appearance of the structure, a retrofit or replacement of the dome be implemented. 
    • It is recommended that with shoring in place, there is no reason to restrict ancillary spaces around the dome from occupancy.
    • It is recommended that further analysis of the dome structure take place, providing additional data to be used in the design of a structural retrofit, if that option is considered.
  • KCS anticipates pursuing the recommended additional analysis to determine the appropriate option for addressing the structural concerns of the dome structure.  It is anticipated that this additional analysis will take 6-8 weeks to complete.

Additional Information

  • Contact Dr. Andy True, KCS Assistant Superintendent - Administration at (423) 378-2100.
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