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Owner: The Bakersfield Dome will be demolished to allow expansion of detention center

The Bakersfield Dome, one of the more notable event venues in the city's history, will soon be sold and demolished to make way for a planned expansion of the nearby Mesa Verde immigration detention center on Golden State Avenue, the property's owner said July 3.

Built in the 1940s, the 1,650-seat stadium has hosted countless boxing, wrestling and other entertainment events. But declining attendance and the mounting need for repairs persuaded owner Chencho Madera to sell it.

The Dome, located at the northwest corner of V and 22nd streets, is now in escrow. Madera said he expects it to close in 60 days.

The prospective buyer is publicly traded GEO Group Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla.-based private operator of detention center and mental health facilities. The company could not be reached for comment.

Locally, GEO runs Mesa Verde and another facility in McFarland, as well as other detention, correctional and community reentry facilities around the world.

A supervisor at Mesa Verde, who refused to give his name and said he does not speak on behalf of Geo Group, said he was unaware of plans to expand the facility.

Surrounded by high walls topped with razor wire, Mesa Verde functions as a secure processing center for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A spokesman for the ICE said by email he had no information about the facility's expansion. He referred questions to GEO.

Bakersfield Development Services Director Jacqui Kitchen said real estate agents have contacted her staff recently to ask about The Dome. She was unable to confirm whether any calls came from people representing GEO.

If GEO does purchase the building as part of any plan to expand Mesa Verde, she said, the company would have to apply for an amended conditional use permit. Her office has received no such application to date, she noted. The existing permit was approved in 2013, the year the facility reopened after four years of vacancy.

Kitchen was unsure whether The Dome has any sort of historic status that would protect it from demolition. If the company does plan to tear down the building, she said, the building's status might have to be addressed.

Madera said he understood GEO is also in the process of buying El Morocco Motel, the only property standing between The Dome and Mesa Verde.

A property manager at El Morocco was unable to confirm any transaction involving the motel's owner.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.

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