Visiting the Superior (Yooper) Dome

In most cities, the most prominent skyline feature is a building or tower. Not so for Marquette. Long before the rest of the city comes into focus, travelers approaching from the east catch a glimpse of the majestic Superior Dome – also known as the “Yooper Dome” – across Marquette Bay. The smooth, sloping sides of this 14-story structure, which is part of the campus of Northern Michigan University, can be seen for miles.

While Marquette County has a wealth of natural assets, you shouldn’t miss out on one of its most recognizable manmade features. Let’s take a look at what makes the Superior Dome so special.


A Brief History of the Yooper Dome

The Yooper Dome feels like it has been a part of Marquette’s cityscape forever, but it’s not really that old. Although the structure itself opened in time for NMU’s Fall 1991 semester, Phase II of its construction wasn’t completed until four years later. Initial construction, funded by a grant from the state of Michigan, cost about $21 million in 1990 dollars; Phase II, which added interior offices, concession facilities, meeting areas and other improvements, was funded by members of the community and by a $1.3 million loan to NMU.

The Superior Dome was conceived as a gathering place for NMU sports fans, but it’s also Marquette’s premier indoor space for large gatherings. Over the years, it has hosted major conventions, trade shows and Special Olympics events. During the 2004 presidential campaign, President George W. Bush held a major rally here as well.

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Notable Superior Dome Facts

The inside of the Superior Dome sure looks impressive, but pictures don’t do it justice. Before you visit, get a load of these facts and stats:

  • When the Superior Dome was built, it was the world’s largest wooden dome. There’s some debate as to whether this is still the case.
  • The dome’s diameter is a whopping 536 feet. It covers an area of 5.1 acres.
  • The dome is about 150 feet high.
  • Its stands have held up to 9,000 spectators. For special events, capacity can be increased to 16,000.
  • The dome’s supports and decking – 108 miles in total – are made almost entirely from Douglas fir.
  • The dome can withstand 60 pounds of snow per square foot and winds of 80 mph.


Teams, Events and Schedule

If you’re keen on seeing the Superior Dome in all its glory, it might be best to time your visit to coincide with one of the facility’s many sporting events or trade shows. The dome’s retractable artificial turf carpet supports all of NMU’s home football games and most of its home soccer games (men’s and women’s). You can also watch home field hockey games here, too, or catch a pickup basketball or lacrosse game. Although Marquette High and other schools don’t play every game here, the dome does occasionally host area high school playoff games as well as Band Day events that bring local high school bands and NMU’s pep band together.

Then there’s the Yooper Dome’s schedule of trade shows and special events. The dome serves as an important stop on the famed Noquemanon Ski Marathon and hosts several major charity walk/runs throughout the year, including the MS Walk. As you might expect, NMU holds its fall and spring commencement ceremonies here as well. And for the gearheads and DIY enthusiasts out there, the dome comes alive for three consecutive weekends in March. The U.P. Builder’s Show, New Car Show and Boat & RV Show are all sure to get folks in the mood for warm weather.

Can’t schedule your trip around a Yooper Dome event? On weekdays and some weekends, the place is open to the public from early in the morning to well after dark. It’s about .3 mile around the perimeter, so you can feel free to burn off some excess calories while you take in this unique sight.


Making the Yooper Dome Part of Your Marquette Trip

The Yooper Dome is located between the main campus of Northern Michigan University and the shore of Lake Superior, about a mile north of downtown Marquette. It’s accessible from Presque Isle Avenue and Lake Shore Boulevard, although both roads fill up before and after events, when parking can be scarce. If you can’t make it for one of the many events that the dome hosts, just swing by during open hours and take a walk around its stunning perimeter. We challenge you not to be impressed!

Brian Martucci is a Marquette-based writer with a passion for food, beer, and the great outdoors. Maybe not in that order.