April Fools Day: Time for a Laker Dome?

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By Norm Wheeler

Sun editor

As everyone in Glen Lake Laker Land basks in the glow of both the women’s and men’s basketball teams’ awesome March Madness runs and the strong 7-3 season the football team had last fall, can’t you just hear the whispers already: Laker Dome? Just last summer the Glen Arbor Sun followed the discussions in June before the school board voted 6-1 in favor of the $839,488 project to install an artificial surface on the football field that will have a life span of 8-10 years. But what then? And what about the other local problems a Laker Dome would solve?

Glen Lake is the only county school that doesn’t have a cool auditorium for musical and theater performances. OK, the Auditeria got some work done on the bleachers, but it’s really just a dining room with a stage on one side and bleachers on the other. Imagine the performances that could be staged in the Laker Dome!

When a local group recently took over the Poor House Barn from the county, the Leelanau Enterprise encouraged the Glen Arbor Art Center and other like-minded organizations to consider making it into a music venue, like the Aten Place Barn performance space in Boyne Falls that recently closed after 23 years of music. That’s a great idea! But a performance space that seats 8,000 would have the opportunity to pay for itself. (The Yooper Dome in Marquette at NMU cost $23.9 million, so we’ve got to figure out how to pay for it.) Millions visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore every year. If you brought in a Lady Gaga, a Taylor Swift, a Clint Black, or even a performance of Hamilton, for $150/ticket, there’s your Astroturf right there! With money left over for the Glen Lake Drama Program to do a reprise of Oliver with Bill Dungjen in the title role!

What other big-time events might be interested in the Laker Dome? Remember the wrestling stars Bobo Brazil, Man Mountain Cannon, Gorgeous George, and Haystack Calhoun? I spoke with promoter Liko Shawn “Vinny” Papparazzi in Paramus, New Jersey. He puts together shows for the WWE, WWF, BTW, WTF, all the big wrestling organizations. Would he want to bring his show to Laker Land? “In a hot-beat,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to bring big-time wrestling to the Midwest. You know, closer to St. Louis, Kansas City, Omahaw. You gotta lotta Trump supporters out there. OK, I admit I got a lousy sense of geography, but that’s neither here nor there. Just lemme know.” Vinny is sure he could draw a crowd.

Another aspect of the Laker Dome is the opportunity for Ecotourism it brings. Remember this lead from the Glen Arbor Sun in 2014?

Mark Evans is nothing if not determined. The eco-tourism guide and explorer has led expeditions deep into the wild to view grizzly bears in British Columbia and whales in Antarctica, and has developed canopy walks in the Australian outback. Evans, who was raised in South Africa and lives in Canada, now has his eyes set on Leelanau County’s forests and the arboreal view of the Glen Lakes.

The ventilation windows in the top of the dome (45 meters high) could provide perfect “canopy walk” views out over Glen Lake, Lake Michigan, and the Manitous, just like the one that failed to gain approval in Kasson Township along Fritz Road. Once you’ve got your dome, how hard can it be to use the catwalk inside the cap for a scenic lookout tour?

And there’s another angle: seasonal housing. Community leader and owner of Cherry Republic, Bob Sutherland is busy creating spaces to house his help during the hectic summer season. Housing in the area is so pricey that it’s prohibitive for seasonal workers. I’ll bet he’d be happy to buy all of the mats for the wrestling room next to the locker rooms in the Laker Dome if he could just use the space in summer (off-season for wrestling) as a place for the cherry workers to crash, shower, and hang out on the climbing wall. This is just a win-win!

Just like the Superior Dome in Marquette, the Laker Dome would be a multi-use facility. Just look at how many sports can happen there: “The dome features a retractable artificial turf carpet, the largest of its kind in the world. When extended, the turf can accommodate footballsoccer, and field hockey. Underneath the carpet is a synthetic playing surface that features three basketball/volleyball courts, two tennis courts and a 200-meter (660 ft) track. The carpet is winched in and out of place on a cushion of air. Retracting the turf carpet takes 30 minutes, with full setup taking approximately two hours.

This story is just scratching the surface. Once the Laker Dome is built, won’t car shows, gun shows, RV shows, tractor pulls, political rallies, and the Circus just be inevitable? It’s a no-brainer! I’ve been trying to contact all of the important folks at Glen Lake School to get some quotes on this idea, but everybody is gone on spring break! The place is empty! So you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Sorry. Did you believe us? Happy April Fools Day!