The $30 million project, which will give fans more legroom, among other upgrades, will be the first significant overhaul in the Tacoma Dome's 35-year history.

Share story

By the time Justin Timberlake fans file into the Tacoma Dome this fall, Washington’s largest indoor arena will look (or at least feel) a little different.

This summer, the Dome that hosts concerts from country heavyweights and colorful pop stars, and high- school graduation ceremonies will close in June to undergo a $30 million renovation project. The Tacoma Dome, which marks its 35th anniversary next week, is scheduled to reopen in October, just in time for JT’s November doubleheader.

“This is the first major love that the venue’s getting in its 35-year history,” says Kim Bedier, the city’s director for Tacoma venues and events.

Highlighting the upgrades for anyone over 5-foot-6 are new fold-up, more contemporary arena-style seats that will add 6 inches of leg room. The new seats — which Bedier tactfully describes as being “sized for the 21st century body” — will be wider and replace the Dome’s original seating (some of which is old-school wooden and aluminum benches), and eliminate storing unused seating sections in the parking lot, freeing up parking and reducing the turnaround time between events. What currently takes days should be able to be done overnight, Bedier says, enabling the city-owned arena to handle more events throughout the year.

Most Read Entertainment Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The new seating won’t alter the venue’s 22,500 capacity much, but the restrooms will get a major boost. Through a mix of new facilities and upgrades to existing bathrooms, the Dome’s restroom capacity will increase by 300 percent, which ought to come in handy during those beer-hoisting country shows.

Also in the works are less splashy security enhancements designed to bring the Dome up to date with contemporary technology and challenges. Venue security experts and Homeland Security representatives are studying the site to recommend changes before construction begins this summer. Bedier doesn’t expect fans will notice any differences entering the arena, which already employs metal detectors, beyond more clearly marked entrances and some new paneling aimed at sprucing up the exterior.

Dome brass aren’t ready to dish on planned upgrades to the arena’s food and drink offerings, though more details should emerge this summer after they are finalized.

Back in November 2016, the city approved $21.3 million for the Tacoma Dome overhaul, though the size of the project has grown to $30 million. Bedier says that as the city’s bonding capacity increased, they were able to add more upgrades from their wish list, including back-of-house improvements (think proper loading docks to nicer dressing rooms) and updated sound, lighting and HVAC systems.

“I don’t know if you remember those cone-shaped metal speakers that used to be in your high-school gym. That’s what is up in the ceiling of the Tacoma Dome right now,” Bedier says.

While the sound improvements won’t make a difference for concertgoers, since major tours bring in their own sound gear, it will help with other events like high-school sports. “People will actually be able to hear what the announcer’s saying,” Bedier quips.

Music fans have a few more opportunities to experience the pre-updated Dome when country stars Shania Twain (May 3) and Chris Young (May 19), and pop-rockers Maroon 5 (May 30) perform next month.