Structural problems close Buck Van Huss Dome

UNDER THE DOME. The Sevier girls basketball team competes against Robinson Middle during last year’s Tribe Classic at the Buck Van Huss Dome. This year, the Dome has been closed due to structural problems.


UNDER THE DOME. The Sevier girls basketball team competes against Robinson Middle during last year’s Tribe Classic at the Buck Van Huss Dome. This year, the Dome has been closed due to structural problems.

The Buck Van Huss Dome at Dobyns-Bennett High School has been closed since the first week of the school year. The Dome was closed due to low moisture and density in the wood of the roof. The dome was built in the 1960s.

The damage was discovered during routine maintenance on the roof of Dobyns-Bennett High School.

“The roof over the majority of Dobyns-Bennett is being replaced, due to its end-of-life,” Andy True, Kingsport City Schools’ Assistant Superintendent, said. “Last summer, to help get ready for that project, KCS wanted to have some analysis done on the wooden structure of the Buck Van Huss Dome. There had not been any damage or incidents with the roof, but understanding that the Dome structure was over 50 years old and made of wood, we wanted to know more about its condition before re-roofing.”

The outcome of the testing of the Dome showed that the moisture levels have gone down over time. After the test, Dobyns-Bennett staff decided to close the Dome for safety issues.

Many students are concerned about the Dome closure.

“Many sports will have to be played at Sevier and maybe some games for Sevier will be canceled,” sixth grade student Landrey France said.

Another sixth grade student, Elsie Cross, agreed.

“Where the people go to practice; it will affect that,” she said.

The Dome closure has affected multiple sports and daily physical education classes. The Dobyns-Bennett volleyball team has had to practice at the TNT Sports Complex because of the closure.

Physical education classes and other programs are being held at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium.

Landrey France found out about the closure because Dobyns-Bennett’s volleyball home games had to be held at Sevier Middle.

“I heard about it by spying on my mom,” Cross said.

Nobody knows the exact price range for the repairs of the Dobyns-Bennett Dome yet.

“It would be premature to know the scope and cost of any future action, if it is warranted,” True said. “We are currently waiting on further analysis of the structure by a noted expert in dome construction and engineering.”

That information will help determine our next steps and any further action.

There’s also some worry how the Dome’s closure will affect the annual Tribe Classic basketball game between Sevier Middle and Robinson Middle.

“Maybe the game would be canceled, which would be big because it is tradition and that is just what happens,” France said.

Even True is not sure yet what will happen.

“The Tribe Classic is an incredible event that showcases the all the best of Sevier and Robinson Middle Schools,” True said. “If the Dome is not available for use during the Tribe Classic, school and district administrators will work together to determine the best next steps.”

Since the Dome first closed, Kingsport City Schools has worked toward an alternative location for athletic events. In September, the KCS Board of Education decided to renovate the gym at the former Sullivan North building to use as a “Tribe Athletic Complex”.

On September 16, 2022, the KCS Board of Education and Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a bid by Preston Construction Company to perform the renovation of the Sullivan North gym.

The first DB game held at the complex likely will be with Volunteer High School on December 16, followed by the Alpha Invitational basketball tournament starting December 20.

It is not clear what this means for the future of the Sullivan North building, which was set to become the new home of Sevier Middle.

“We are fortunate to have the former Sullivan North High School gymnasium as a possible location for events, and work is underway to prepare that facility for possible KCS athletics use,” True said. “KCS is also currently in the middle of a facilities study that will provide district leaders additional information as to the long-term use of the North campus.”