2 domes

A panoramic view of the two new Monolithic Domes at Santa Fe Trail High School in Carbondale, Kansas. One serves as a gymnasium, while the other is a fine arts space. (Jeremy Gaston)

Domes provide much-needed update

In search of “something different,” Monolithic Domes fit the bill for one school in Kansas.

When officials from the Santa Fe Trail Unified School District 434 were looking for new buildings to add to the high school, they knew they needed to think outside the box. The district ran several bonds that never passed. That is when, according to superintendent Steve Pegram, “we started looking at alternative means.”

Officials were exposed to Monolithic Domes because they were being built in western Kansas. After touring several of the dome structures, the fact that these structures were very cost effective was encouraging. “When you’re using taxpayer money, you should get the best bang for your buck,” Pegram said. Finally it was the stem walls that were the selling point. These were the “something different” officials were looking for.

A $4.6 million bond was passed by the community. The Monolithic Dome design saved $2 million is costs when compared to a conventional structure. In addition to construction costs, the savings on utility costs was favorable for officials as well. Less money is required to heat and cool Monolithic Domes than traditional structures. “We find that, climate-wise, they are very stable,” Pegram said.

Two domes were built at Santa Fe Trail High School: one as a gymnasium complete with locker rooms and a wrestling room, and the other as a fine arts space with band and choir rooms and a stage. They were completed in 2015 and were ready in time for the 2015-2016 school year.

Michael McCoy of Tulsa served as the architect, who had designed several of the western Kansas domes. Monolithic Constructors Inc. supplied the Airforms and South Industries built the domes. Century Construction located in Mississippi completed the interior as general contractor.

The community reaction to these new structures was positive. “Everybody was really excited about them,” Pegram stated. School officials from around the area have showed interest and toured the school. “The other schools that come in can’t believe that we have what we have.”

Pegram described the domes as very beneficial for the school. Several sporting events have been hosted by the school. Pegram is very clear the reason why: “It’s all because we have a dome.”

The domes were an upgrade to the school. Previous to the domes being built, the school only had one gymnasium. There were not enough locker rooms, so visiting teams would have to change in classrooms. Now there are two gymnasiums and ample room for activities.

Going on two years using the domes, Pegram has only one regret. “We should have made them bigger.”

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Southwest view

A view of the domes from the southwest. (Jeremy Gaston)

South view

A view of the domes from the south. (Jeremy Gaston)

West view

A view of the domes from the west. (Jeremy Gaston)


The gymnasium inside one of the domes. (Jeremy Gaston)

Other gym view

Another view of the gymnasium. (Jeremy Gaston)

Wrestling room

The wrestling room in the sports dome. (Jeremy Gaston)


The hallway connecting the two domes. (Jeremy Gaston)


The auditorium with stage inside the other dome. (Jeremy Gaston)

Choir room

The choir room. (Jeremy Gaston)