This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
It’s embarrassing. You roll into the state’s second city on Interstate 5 and there stands its most visible landmark, the Tacoma Dome. And it’s filthy.
The grime’s been accumulating on the Dome’s roof since 2005, when it was last given a bath. It looks like pond scum without the pond. If the coating of exhaust pollutants weren’t so noxious, you could almost plant wheat in.
Tacoma has a lot of nice landmarks, including Union Station, the Museum of Glass and Old City Hall. (OK, let’s not look too closely at that last one.) But the Dome – right there on the West Coast’s busiest thoroughfare – is what hundreds of thousands of Americans and Canadians see as they approach Tacoma.
It’s the city’s welcome sign, visual signature, architectural calling card, self-advertisement. It’s Grit City’s blue-collared version of McCaw Hall.
Moms and dads journey there from all over the state to watch their kids’ basketball tourneys and Gridiron Classics. The Dome has been featured on “Saturday Night Live.” It hosts bull riders, horse shows, Holiday Food and Gift Festivals, Tacoma Home Shows, Disneys on Ice.
Coming soon are Brad Paisley, monster trucks, motocross, the Artist Again Known as Prince, Jay-Z & Kanye West, Rammstein. Something from everyone and again some.
The Dome is a big deal. A Northwest destination. The only point at which many Americans will intersect with Tacoma. And – did we mention this? – it is filthy.
Looking at it, visitors and passers-by must get the impression that the city’s slipping into genteel poverty, or has just let itself go like a middle-aged slob. The City of Tacoma may be pinched for cash at the moment, but that huge grimy saucer at its doorstep has become a civic humiliation. Even a bum will wash his face every couple years.
According to the city, it costs $150,000 to give the Dome a bath – something to do with high wages for jobs that involve a long way to fall.
The Dome could conceivably cover that from its surplus revenues, except that the surpluses are mostly nonexistent and keep-the-rain-out maintenance has to take priority over esthetics. The city’s general fund is tapped out.
Time to get creative. Are there any corporate angels out there willing to fund a high-profile good deed? Philanthropists? Benefactors? Roof-cleaning companies that want to get popular in a hurry? Creative members of Congress? (Hey, the job’s shovel-ready, or rather pressure-washer ready.)