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Official Review by Benjamin Evensen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Nestled in the Palouse region of northern Idaho, the William H. Kibbie-ASUI Activity Center sits on the campus of the University of Idaho. The Kibbie Dome, as it is referred to by most, is one of the first things you see when coming into Moscow from Pullman, WA and the Pullman-Moscow Airport.
It may be one of the most interesting facilities in college football. Starting as an outdoor stadium in 1971, the dome was added in 1975 to make it a completely indoor facility. Today the Kibbie Dome is home to not just football, but also basketball as it converts into the Cowan Spectrum, and indoor track and field.
The Idaho Vandals were at their best in the late 80’s to early 90’s playing in the Big Sky Conference. From the 1985 season to the 1995 season, the Vandals made the FCS playoffs every year except 1991. Twice they came a win away from the FCS Championship, but fell in 1988 to Furman and 1993 to Youngstown State. Throughout this time the Kibbie Dome was rocking, and was known as a very loud venue. There was a lot to cheer about, as coaches like Dennis Erickson and John L. Smith, players like Mark Schlereth were in Moscow. In addition, two Walter Payton Award winners John Friesz and Doug Nussmeier were slinging passes for Idaho.
In 1996, the Vandals made the jump to FBS play to join the Big West Conference, leaving behind the years of history (9 Big Sky Championships) and rivalries in the Big Sky. 18 years later, the change has not been pretty for Idaho. After the Big West stopped sponsoring football, Idaho was not invited to the geographically-fit Western Athletic Conference, and the Vandals joined the Sun Belt for football while remaining in the Big West for other sports. After some conference realignment, the Vandals finally found a spot in the WAC in 2005, but it was short lived as the WAC dropped football in 2012. Idaho spent the 2013 season as an Independent before joining the Sun Belt in 2014 again as a football-only member.
Throughout this time, the Vandals football field fell off from what they were at the FCS level. From 1998 till now, Idaho has only three winning records and two bowl appearances, both wins, in 1998 and 2009. With the lack of winning in Moscow, Idaho, the fans have lost interest and the dome sits empty most games. When the WAC dropped football, Idaho desperately tried to find a conference to call home as its former WAC foes found new homes in the Conference USA and Mountain West. After being denied admission to the Mountain West, Idaho was given a “trial membership” in the Sun Belt. As for the 2016-17 season the conference will decide if Idaho should stay.
Unfortunately another big reason for Idaho’s troubles finding a home is the Kibbie Dome. Seating only 16,000 it is the smallest FBS stadium in the country and the age is apparent when sitting in the dome. While plans have been discussed to improve the dome drastically, including adding seating to get over 20,000, the team needs to start winning and fans need to start coming for the renovations. For now though, Idaho plays in the Kibbie Dome just trying to survive in the world of FBS football.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There just isn't much when it comes to food in the Kibbie Dome. The basic food is available like pizza, hot dogs, candy, and Pepsi products. But that pretty much is it. The prices are fair, but it lacks anything unique or memorable. You will come away satisfied, but may be wishing there was more available to eat.
When Idaho is winning, the Vandals have a loyal fan base that packs the dome and creates a very loud, intimate atmosphere for opponents. But those days are far in the past, and with years and years of struggling to win more than four games a year, the Kibbie Dome is lucky to be half full. The seats are bleacher style with only a select section on one side of the stadium having back rests.
The good news is that the dome protects you from the elements and the harsh Idaho winters. The dome actually becomes quite warm with all the people in it, and it is a nice place to go to get out of the cold. The Idaho Marching Band is very good too, and their halftime show is worth catching. A giant new video screen was installed in 2013 and is a nice addition to the Kibbie Dome.
There is only seating on either sideline; behind the end zones are just padded walls. But with how small the stadium is, every seat is a good seat at the Kibbie Dome. The dome shows its age and that's what keeps the rating down, along with very little fans at the game and not much excitement. That being said, playing or watching a game in the interesting venue like the Kibbie Dome still has something special to it.
While the Kibbie Dome is on the other side of campus from the downtown area of Moscow, going to the restaurants and bars in Moscow on game day is a good idea. There are many Vandal fans out, and if you don't have tickets, watching the game at a sports bar is a fun idea too. The University of Idaho campus is small but has many historic brick buildings. The Arboretum has walking trails around beautiful trees and the Palouse fields. Many people tailgate outside the Kibbie Dome on game days, and many fans hang around there before the game.
If you have time and the kickoff times sync-up, catching a Washington State game at Martin Stadium in nearby Pullman, WA is a fun idea too. Just 8 miles away, the campus of Washington State and the city of Pullman are fun places to visit.
The town of Moscow and the area of the Palouse are very scenic, and finding something to do shouldn't be much of a problem.
The fans that do come to the games usually are into the game and will be quick to voice their happiness or frustration at their team. But the dome has been barren these past couple years, and you can't blame Vandal fans too much for that with how bad the team has been. When the team is good, fans will come and fill the place like they have in the past, creating a big home field advantage. But till those days come again, only two stars can be awarded here.
Getting to the Palouse in the winter can be tough, and roads are known to be dangerous in the rough winters in the area. Moscow is not near really anything besides Pullman, which is just as isolated. Spokane is about two hours away, but driving there in winter is very tough.
The Pullman-Moscow Airport is accessible from SeaTac airport in Seattle and the airport in Spokane, so if you are coming from somewhere else expect a connecting flight.
Once you are in the area, getting to the stadium is a breeze. The roads through campus flow nicely to the Kibbie Dome, and parking is plentiful around campus. Parking prices are more than fair, and there should be no worries about having to walk more than 15 minutes to the stadium from a parking spot.
While the stadium is interesting to see, and the ticket prices are not bad at all, for now going to games at the Kibbie Dome just lack any sort of excitement. The feelings of success are long gone, and the only reminder about what Vandal football used to be are in the rafters. When the team starts winning that can change, but for now there is no real return on investment other than getting to watch a Sun Belt football game.
There are some extras for Vandal fans, but not much. The rafters hold banners for all Vandal conference championships in all sports, as well as banners for the 1998 and 2009 Humanitarian Bowl Championships. Retired numbers of a few Vandal legends hang too. The Vandal store has booths on both sides of the stadium to get Vandal gear.
One interesting note is that the Kibbie Dome's arched roof is made entirely of wood, and has won awards as it is the only arched dome in the country made of wood.
The Vandals fell a long way from their Big Sky days, and still today haven't quite recovered. Through years of coaching changes, conference changes, and losing seasons, the program has struggled, and fans have lost interest. The days of success can come back even at the FBS level, and in his second year head coach Paul Petrino has showed promise of getting Idaho to be competitive. To get there, changes must be made to the outdated Kibbie Dome to give it a more modern feel and a larger seating capacity. To get there, the team must do the simple task of winning games.
Until then, the Kibbie Dome remains small and outdated, but is still an interesting and unique venue.
Member Review by Nate Kuester on Dec 18, 2012
“The Dome” is by no means your average college football stadium. As of late, the fanfare has been a bit lacking. When there is a full crowd on hand it is one heck of a home field advantage. As the Vandals prepare to embark on their journey of independence as the football-playing members of the WAC turn to other options, the 16,000-seat facility will need to put all the fans they can into the seats in their quest to remain at the FBS level.
At first glance, the structure (completed in 1975) looks a lot like a can that is flopped over on its side and buried half way with its barrel-arch design. The dome not only features football games, but also converts into a venue for basketball as well. It’s unlike the majority of stadiums in college football. While getting there may not be the easiest of trips, it is a unique and photo-worthy experience.
Member Review by Kim Johnston on Sep 30, 2015
This was unlike any other football experience I've ever had.
Weird stadium, poor concessions, but still a lot of fun. The University of Idaho campus is jaw-droppingly beautiful and the people are among the friendliest in the planet.
While Moscow isn't an easy place to get to, I'd TOTALLY make plans to go again. In fact time the trip so you can see WAZZU just down the road in Pullman. That would be a cool Saturday of sports.
Great scoreboard too! One of the better ones I've seen.
202 N Main St
Moscow, ID 83843
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