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Happy 40th birthday to the Tacoma Dome (or is it DomaTacoma?)

Apr 28, 2023, 9:03 AM | Updated: Apr 29, 2023, 7:38 am

domatacoma...

The Tacoma Dome is marking its 40th birthday, but some people still wish the facility had been called "DomaTacoma" instead. (Courtesy of the Tacoma Dome)

(Courtesy of the Tacoma Dome)

The Tacoma Dome is celebrating its 40th birthday this weekend with all kinds of fun and free activities, but the official selection of that now household name goes back a bit further. And there was at least one novelty song involved in the process.

We take the name “Tacoma Dome” for granted, but like all big civic infrastructure projects, there were other names along the way in the decade or so of serious activity before the facility opened to the public on April 21, 1983.

It’s easy to forget that Tacoma’s project was a gleam in the eye of local planners long before the Kingdome opened in 1976. Spurred on by a condition known as multipurpose envy, the pace picked up in the late 1970s, and Tacoma voters were asked to approve a bond measure in March 1980.

At that point, there was no official name for what was being celebrated this weekend, but there were a handful of names already in use by some of the officials and official entities working to get it built.

Tacoma Dome Aliases:

T-PC Minidome Committee

“T-PC” as in Tacoma-Pierce County; “Minidome” as in, well, “small dome” or “little dome” (or, other words, smaller than the Kingdome. Sorry to rub that in.)

A Dome of Our Own

More of a slogan or call to action than a name, but a downhome and cozy feeling – though tinged with that ever-present envy or comparison.

Tacoma’s dome

Possessive and simple; this is not Seattle’s dome, people.

Tacoma’s domed sports and convention center

Possessive and very official sounding, it does not sound like someplace you’d go see David Bowie or The Police (who both played big shows there in the inaugural year of 1983.)

Even without an official name, the $28 million bond measure passed, and so then, in May 1981, as the Tacoma City Council struggled to make an official pick for a name, they asked for the public to mail in their ideas. And, unlike our current elections process, there was no pre-addressed envelope, and the postage was definitely not covered by the taxpayers.

As you might expect, even decades before the age of “Boaty McBoat Face,” there were many tongue-in-cheek suggestions for Tacoma’s imminent pride and joy.

Bingdome

Because he was born there, someone suggested the Bing Crosby Dome – or Bingdome for short. Sublimely hilarious.

Sounddome For Puget Sound

Of course (which was named in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver for Peter Puget).

Prince Dome

Not a tribute to His Royal Badness or an attempt to party like it’s 1983. This was instead about being “Prince” to Seattle’s “King”-dome, as if there were some kind of royal lineage element to the relationship between the rival cities and a whole lot of Freudian friction. See what they did there?

Rhododendrome

For the reliably beautiful shrubbery, which was a go-to for midcentury Northwest residential landscapers, and which also happens to be the Evergreen State flower.

Parker’s Dream Dome

For Tacoma’s impossibly youthful then-Mayor Mike Parker, who was just 30 years old when he took office in 1978.

Tacoma International Kingdome

Self-explanatory, perhaps. Seems like another Freudian manifestation, combining delusions of grandeur and self-effacement (compared to that city up north, the one with the plain old “Kingdome”).

Tacoma Termite Terrarium

Perhaps the most “Boaty McBoat Face” of the bunch, this name is for the dome’s wood construction, which included lumber that had been milled from timber blown down in the May 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

DomaTacoma

Probably the best of the semi-serious suggested names, but the timing may have been off. But fortunately, especially for irritating radio historians, this suggestion came from a band called The Kicks, led by a Seattle musician named Arel Thomas (first name pronounced “R-L”), and they put out a record.

However, even with its catchy Oak Ridge Boys “Elvira” vibe, this mighty seven-inch disc came out too late to be seriously considered.

The Tacoma City Council had already made it official on June 2, 1981, by voting for “Tacoma Dome” (with a space between Tacoma and Dome). Although, Tacoma Space Dome would have been a pretty cool name to add to the mix.

Some Tacomans had wanted “Tacomadome” to be all one word – perhaps, once again, experiencing one-word Kingdome envy. However, this no-space version could also have easily been misread as “Taco Madome.”

As we all know by now, the Tacoma Dome had the last – and lasting – laugh.

Seattleites themselves also just observed a big dome anniversary this past March 26. That day marked 23 years since that once-mighty structure known as the Kingdome – call it “Seattle’s maxidome” – was reduced to rubble by an intentional implosion to make way for what’s now Lumen Field.

Special thanks to Kim Davenport of TacomaMusicHistory.org for digitizing and sharing the audio of “DomaTacoma.”

If you go: 40th birthday activities will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., at the Tacoma Dome, 2727 East D Street in Tacoma. Free parking is available at the Tacoma Dome for the birthday event.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.

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Happy 40th birthday to the Tacoma Dome (or is it DomaTacoma?)