Demolition work began next to The Dome on Wednesday, one day after the city of Bakersfield issued a demo permit to the historically notable property's new owner.
The 78-year-old former events venue is not expected to be torn down until Tuesday at the earliest, a demolition manager said, because electrical power is still hooked up to the building.
A fence was recently put up around the domed building at the corner of V and 22nd streets, and two large dumpsters are now parked along the sidewalk. Two concrete lion sculptures that for decades sat on either side of the main entrance have been removed.
The new owner, a Florida company that owns and operates the nearby Mesa Verde immigration detention center, has said it wants to bulldoze the building in order to create a buffer around the detention facility. But the owner’s agents apparently told the building’s previous owner that its plan is actually to build a residential treatment facility at the site.
Progress on the demolition project would seem to undermine a last-minute movement to spare a structure some call historic, even though the building is not officially registered as such.
In late August, the Bakersfield Historic Preservation Commission reached out to the current and former owners of The Dome urging them to consider an alternative to demolishing the building.
More recently, the Kern County Historical Society sent a letter to the chairman of the property's new owner, Florida-based The Geo Group Inc., urging him to spare The Dome even if surrounding structures must go.
"In respect for our community, its values, its history and culture, we may offer a suggestion for compromise: the removal of structures, walls, outbuildings, stage, etc. on the west side of The Dome in order to create open land sufficient to meet your security needs while retaining the main historic building," the letter reads. "We feel this is an acceptable compromise."
One of the buildings demolished Wednesday afternoon had stood immediately west of The Dome. A small crew ran a bulldozer and a skip loader on the site, leaving a sizable pile of scrap.
The crew's supervisor, an employee of Anaheim-based Integrated Demolition and Remediation Inc. who identified himself only as Franco, initially said he didn't expect to knock down The Dome for another two to three weeks, because of the power connection. But then he revised his forecast, saying the building might come down as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the city issued a commercial demolition permit to an entity listed as the property's owner, CPT Operating PTP LP, which like The Geo Group is located in Boca Raton. The $101 permit's expiration date was listed as April 14, 2019.