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June Morrow peach dress circular

Beach Ball

Originally published in the WasagaDome inaugral season print program.

It’s been called a giant golf ball in the sand, an enormous igloo, and the giant jungle gym of Georgian Bay.

What is it?

It’s WasagaDome: Ontario’s premier beachfront entertainment complex; a unique performance space for circus, comedy, music, and other events; and a structure known as a geodesic dome.

You may recognize the shape from other famous buildings including Spaceship Earth at Disney World’s Epcot Centre, the IMAX Cinesphere at Ontario Place, Vancouver’s Science World, and the Biosphère at the site of Montreal’s Expo ‘67. 

“I was first introduced to geodesic domes at the Burning Man festival in Nevada,” says WasagaDome’s chief operating officer Dave McKay. “At this festival, they construct an entire city in a week and then tear it down when they leave. Geodesic domes are a natural building choice there because they are strong, transport easily, and you can build them fast.”

The strongest architectural structure in the world

Based on a network of triangular sections that in turn create interlocking polygons, geodesic domes are the strongest architectural structure in the world and have been called “the lightest, and most efficient means of enclosing space known to man.”

The first geodesic dome was built in 1922 to house a planetarium projector in Jena, Germany but it wasn’t until the late 1940s – when American inventor Buckminster Fuller discovered the unique structure – that domes came into the public eye. 

Fuller believed the geodesic dome could help alleviate the post-World War II housing crisis, in part because they require far fewer materials and time to erect than traditional buildings.

Despite being the largest event dome of its kind in Canada, the 90-foot wide and 45-foot high WasagaDome was assembled in a mere 24 hours by a crew of 10 workers. 

Still, don’t confuse time with stability. Becomes of its shape, geodesic domes distribute stress equally across the sphere and are frequently used as survival shelters in areas subject to frequent hurricanes and earthquakes.

Protection from the weather

On Wasaga Beach, safety was paramount in the structure’s construction. To withstand the strong winds sweeping off the bay, WasagaDome is weighed down by 30 concrete cylinders, the strongest foundation an event dome has ever been built on. 

Geodesic domes, which require 30 percent less energy to heat and cool than conventional buildings, offer environmental advantages as well. At Wasaga, where summer temperatures can reach above 30 degrees Celsius, the dome on the beach provides a cool UV-free respite. 

Made of recyclable vinyl, the cover consists of a layer of black sandwiched between two waterproof layers of white and is designed to keep the sunlight out.

Meanwhile, the structure’s five solar fans pool cool air up from the wet sand below the floor and pump hot air out of the top, eliminating the need for traditional air conditioning. 

Entertainment in the round

One of the coolest things about geodesic domes is being in one.

“Because it’s this round structure, the acoustics are quite different,” says McKay. “When the dome is empty, if you stand on one side of the dome and speak to the person across from you it’s almost as if you are louder than if they were right beside you, and this is 90 feet away.”

For high-flying acts like those in Ignite, Zero Gravity Circus’ breathtaking new production playing at WasagaDome in August, the structure is a natural.

“I saw these domes a few years ago and was so excited by the rigging possibilities for the circus,” says Eli Chorneki, WasagaDome’s creative director. “Circus is designed to be experienced in the round, and the dome gives more front row seats.” 

With a 20-foot stage surrounded by chairs on all sides, no seat in the house is more than 10 rows from the action, with no columns or other architectural features obstructing the view. 

In addition to Ignite, WasagaDome’s inaugural season will feature stand-ups from Absolute Comedy, sketch from The Second City, screenings of blockbuster movies, concerts, and more. 

The first phase of the Blue Beach Avenue Corporation’s redevelopment of Wasaga Beach, WasagaDome is expected to stay in its current location for the next three years, after which it may find a more permanent home elsewhere in the town.  

And, although the roof will come off in the late fall, visitors can expect even more great entertainment programming next year.

In the meantime, this unique venue is available for rentals for weddings, receptions, banquets, and other events. 

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