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County purchases dome for future events center

Feb 17, 2023 10:12AM ● By Linda Petersen

Morgan County has purchased a dome similar to the one pictured to use for an events center at East Canyon State Park. Courtesy image by Luna Glamping

Morgan County is buying itself a 60-foot dome — or at least has authorized distribution of the funds to do so. The dome, which costs $72,000, will be installed at East Canyon State Park as the roof for an events center to be constructed there.

Morgan County is entering into a partnership with Utah State Parks on the project, which is expected to anchor a future “village” of smaller domed buildings where tourists can stay to take advantage of the park’s Dark Sky designation.

In 2021 Morgan County received a $100,000 state rural opportunity grant for what they are calling the Geodome Project. According to the application for that grant, the project would “make optimal use of environmental resources, establishing a crucial element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.”

The county had actually applied for $300,000 but being approved for the lesser amount, will wait to develop future phases of the project as it can be funded, County Commissioner Blaine Fackrell told his fellow commissioners at their Feb. 7 meeting.

“With that $100,000 it was for a dome project at East Canyon State Park,” Fackrell said. “They wanted to see how well we could do.”

For these types of grants, the state requires a match of 50 percent, much of which is being provided in-kind by State Parks in the form of land, infrastructure and the use of its reservation system, Chris Haramoto, park manager, told the county commission. The value of the in-kind contribution is $120,000, he said. 

The remaining funds needed for the project will be undisbursed grant monies from a previous state economic development grant and from tourism tax revenues, Fackrell said.

“The geodome project was born because of meeting space,” Haramoto said. “We don’t have a lot of good meeting spaces here in the county, and we were looking at what would be a cool way to get businesses and others to have retreats and others to have retreats like at a center where they could not only take care of their business but also have a good time right after.”

The domed event center will be air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter, he said. 

“If we’re going to get the most bang out of our buck, we want to heat it to ensure we can keep people up there year round,” he said in response to a question. “In wintertime, there’s still plenty of activities to do at the park just like there is in the summer. We fully support this project and hopefully we can get going and see it through.”

Once the county acquires the dome, it will send out a request for proposals to find a contractor to construct the event center itself. An informal estimate provided to the commission by Fackrell indicates the construction costs beyond the actual dome would be in the neighborhood of $60,000. 

This size dome is expected to be able to seat 230 people, Fackrell said. “If it was standing room only, they would be able to put 400 individuals inside there.”

That evening the commissioners expressed support for the project and voted unanimously to authorize the funding. (Commissioner Mike Newton was absent.)

“This is very exciting; I think it’s going to be awesome,” Commissioner Jared Anderson said.

No timeline was given for construction of the project. However, once it is complete, the county and parks can go after future grants for the remaining phases, Haramoto said.

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