It's a comeback Rocky would appreciate. The Dome is back. After being grounded for nearly a year, one of the Anchorage area's most recognizable landmarks and important athletic facilities for youth teams has returned.

In a ceremony held inside The Dome Thursday morning, officials once again declared it open for business. If this were a baseball game, the umpire would've shouted, "Play ball!"

"Been quite the challenge, but, I can't think of anything I've done in my career that's more rewarding," said Dome Board President Alice Federenko. 

In truth, Thursday's event was more aesthetic than anything. The building has already been operating this week with youth soccer and flag football teams filling every available space on the brand new athletic turf. New lighting was also installed.

Thursday morning, another of its most reliable tenants, the University of Alaska Anchorage track and field team was preparing for its season-opening meet this weekend in Seattle. 

"Boy, it's sure nice be home again," said head coach Michael Friess Wednesday. "It's sure nice to be able to go out, structure a workout, see the athletes engaging in the things that are indicative of our sport."

The Dome became national news last January after collapsing under the weight of heavy snow on its roof. It sent teams and weekend warriors alike scrambling for alternate options. In Florida, this would amount to applying sunscreen. In Alaska, it was a major issue and folks are happy to have it back.

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"Being able to run inside on a 400-meter track in the climate in here, 60, 65 degrees is perfect for running," said Dome member Peter Mauro, who was back on track Thursday morning.

The turf isn't the only new addition. There's a greater glow, too.

"That's because of the all new LED system that exists," said Curtis Penny, The Dome's chairman of the board. "Not only are they more energy efficient, but, much brighter, more natural light inside The Dome." 

In all, it cost nearly $7.5 million to bring it back. 

Of course, many questioned how the Dome's roof could collapse in the first place. This is Alaska after all; it snows here. New safeguards have been put in place to remedy that. Sensors now sit atop poles inside. They project lasers to other sensors on the roof. If the roof falls more than three feet, Dome officials will be alerted. 

Additionally, the temperature and pressure have both been raised. 

"This tightens the skin, allows gravity to do its job a little more easily," said director of operations Russell Moore. "The increased temperature helps melt a little bit, release some of that surface tension."

The year away from The Dome didn't actually affect the Seawolves' performance. With the talent-rich roster Friess has amassed, one of the nation's most successful programs kept trucking along. 

"You know what? We did our best, we've had a year without it. Hey, we won a decent number of conference champions, and national champions." 

But, for Friess and so many others in Alaska, there's no place like the Dome. 

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