Situated on the shore of Lake Superior at Northern Michigan University (NMU), the 150-foot-tall, 531-foot-diameter, wooden-domed building has the largest diameter of any wooden sports structure in the world. (The Tacoma Dome in Washington, 1981–1983, is taller and larger in volume and seating capacity.) Superior Dome covers over 5 acres and seats 8,000. The dome is sturdy, as well as large, so as to withstand heavy snow and winds off Lake Superior. Forty buttresses, each anchored by a 5-foot-wide and 2.5-foot-high concrete tension ring, support the dome. The dome is constructed of Douglas fir beams and Douglas fir tongue-and-groove decking. Wooden supports brace the oculus, gabled ventilators project from the dome, and gables shelter the entrances. The structure contains a turf playing surface and a synthetic playing surface for courts.
The State of Michigan constructed the complex as an instructional, training, competition, and multipurpose sports facility for students, faculty, athletes in training at the U.S. Olympic Education Center and the Great Lakes Sports Training Center, and area citizens. The facility was built after the U.S. Olympics Site Selection Committee designated NMU as an Olympic Training Center. Phase two of construction to the dome added locker rooms, department offices, meeting rooms, concession areas, and a retail store. Berry Events Center (1998–1999) holds an ice arena for hockey and speed skating.
Now the sole U.S. Olympic Education Center on a college campus in the nation, here NMU operates several year-round resident training programs. For a modest fee the university opens the wide corridor that circumnavigates the perimeter of the building to the public—“mall walkers” and joggers seeking refuge while exercising in winter.