The planning stages and construction
The dome came as an idea to Woodhaven City Recreation Director Charles Horn in 1987. After its design phase, the facility was initially advertised as the largest golf dome of its kind in North America, with a News-Herald article going so far as to explain its construction as a model for "future domed structures that eventually will cover entire cities." Unlike other domes in Michigan, for instance, this one was built to be permanent.
The WonderDome's main functions would be as a golf driving range, soccer field and softball diamond (in-season). Turf inside the structure would be naturally grown, in spite of more famous attempts at this failing.
Construction of the $1.3 million facility was to be completed in December, 1987. To the casual viewer, that date looked approachable, as to the untrained eye it would appear construction duties didn't amount to much. It would be November 21, 1988 however, before a grand opening could take place. Delays were attributed to abnormally bad weather, as well as arguments with a construction sub-contractor.
The delayed opening would have political ramifications, as Woodhaven Mayor James Lambert sent a tersely worded letter to Charles Horn, pinning blame for the delays on him. Horn admitted some delays were his, but nonetheless took great offense at the criticism levied against his idea and, in a 30-minute speech, tendered his resignation from the Recreation Department just before the WonderDome opened.
In spite of the fact that there were still no facility manager or pro-shop proprietor, the grand opening was held on November 30, 1988. Samuel Craig of Allen Park was the first customer at the WonderDome, which over time would begin posting rave reviews of the facility.
The end comes too soon
On January 20, 1990, the Downriver area experienced a heavy windstorm which came from the west, sweeping into the area by 1:10 PM. Wind gusts were reported between 66-75 MPH at times.
In spite of this, the WonderDome would hold its own for at least the first 3 1/2 hours of the storm. Attendance was low, but driving range practice was in progress. In a promise by the manufacturer, it was designed to withstand 100 MPH winds. At 5:00 PM, a three-foot hole was seen at the east end of the dome, near the service entrance. As standard procedure, the facility was evacuated, and a repair crew patched up the hole, and put more inside fans on to increase the holding pressure.
The golfers, who were on the indoor driving range, returned to the facility, but were soon ushered out again as additional problems began to develop at the dome's north and south ends. Cables supporting the outer skin began to snap, then a 30 ft. x 2 ft. section of skin was gouged out of the north end of the facility. Repairs commenced again, but eventually were suspended for safety reasons.
Gaps in the skin caused by the wind damage were now reaching 60-70 feet in length, and the structure began to sway. A final evacuation was ordered. Three minutes after the last of six employees escaped safely, the dome would deflate. Skin was now rapidly peeling off the structure. Southbound I-75 was closed at West Road for safety precautions as a large piece of fabric nearly ran across the freeway, stopped only by a small fence.
The annual Downriver Business Expo slated for the WonderDome that summer had to find a new location. Other events canceled included youth soccer days, as well as the broadcasting location for the Easter Seals Telethon.
After two years of discussion over whether to rebuild, the base of the structure, as well as the light towers, were dismantled by 1993.