Former Board of Education member Vinaya Sharma believes inflatable domes over athletic practice fields are a good idea for both and high schools.
Sharma explained his rationale at the start of Monday night’s board meeting during time allotted for audience communication.
“Hinsdale South and Hinsdale Central could inflate domes every winter, starting in November 2012 and take them down every spring,” Sharma said. “The schools would use the domes during and immediately after school for P.E., intramurals, and other extra-curricular activities. They would then rent the domes for after-school use on nights and weekends. Rental revenues would pay back the cost of the domes to the community and also cover operational costs.”
Sharma said excess revenue generated from renting the facilities could be used to support other programs, help fund balances, or be refunded to the community.
“Financial models project it is reasonable to expect more than $10 million in rental revenue over the life of the domes, many millions more than costs and expenses,” he said.
Sharma said Minnetonka High School, in suburban Minneapolis, paid off its dome in seven years. The school’s website says that dome is paid for completely by rental fees "and does not require any tax dollars for its operation.”
Sharma said the initial cost of the domes at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South could be paid for by using the school’s existing bonding capacity.
He said there is a demand for such facilities in the area.
“For example, Darien Sportsplex charges $230 per hour for its field during prime hours and is booked 95 to 100 percent every winter,” Sharma said. “District 86 could charge the exact same price for a field four times larger and still cover all costs and expenses. The demand for such a space would be tremendous.”
Current board members made no comment on the idea, though, as Sharma pointed out, domes are part of the district’s Master Facilities Plan.