The Bakersfield Historic Preservation Commission has reached out to the current and former owners of The Dome urging them to consider an alternative to demolishing the architecturally novel event venue built in 1940.
In a letter sent Aug. 30 on commission letterhead, Chairman Scott Fieber argued that the roughly 15,000-square-foot building would be an "ideal candidate" for an "adaptive reuse" that would keep the structure's shell in place without impeding use of the rest of the property.
"In respect for our community, its values, its history and culture, we urge you to consider an adaptive reuse approach to preserve the stadium to remain part of our community," Fieber wrote. The letter was drafted following an Aug. 21 commission meeting at which The Dome was discussed.
Since the letter was sent, The Dome has been sold by the property's longtime owner, Chencho Madera, to Boca Raton, Fla.-based The Geo Group Inc., owner of the Mesa Verde immigration detention center located on Golden State Avenue, around the corner from The Dome.
Geo could not be reached for comment Thursday. It has previously stated it plans to demolish the building to help create a buffer around Mesa Verde, saying its primary concerns are safety and security.
Madera and his real estate agent have said Geo told them it plans to build a residential treatment center at the location. Building such a facility at the location would likely require a conditional-use permit issued by the city.
The Dome has not been officially designated as historic, and for that reason, can be demolished at Geo's will, as long as the company abides by the terms of a ministerial permit that could be issued in short order by the city. No such permit has been requested to date.
If the city wanted to preserve the building as it stands, a majority of the city council would have to vote to purchase the building from Geo.
Councilman Andrae Gonzales, whose district includes The Dome, said Thursday he would prefer to see the building preserved but that he doesn't consider buying the structure practical, given the city's limited financial resources.
"I’ve had numerous conversations with different people about this," Gonzales said. But, he added, "there is no funding source available to my knowledge.” He also said he honors The Dome's sale as a transaction between two private parties.
Madera said he never received Fieber's letter. But even if he had seen it, he said, he probably would not have stopped the sale because no one besides Geo has offered to pay him the building's full value.
He also expressed bitterness that people who never patronized his business are suddenly offering him advice.
"Everybody wants to save it. Everybody talks about how great it was and all that," he said. "But when the business was here nobody paid the $20 for a ticket."