Walkup Skydome

The J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome is an indoor multipurpose stadium located on the campus of Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff, Arizona. It is primarily used as the home of the NAU Lumberjacks football and both men's and women's basketball teams of the Big Sky Conference. The seating capacity is 11,230, with 10,000 permanent seats and 1,230 seats in portable bleachers.

J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome
NAU campus in 2006
Location in Arizona
Location in the United States
Former namesNAU Skydome (1977–79)
LocationMcConnell Drive
Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S.
Coordinates35.1805°N 111.6525°W / 35.1805; -111.6525
OwnerNorthern Arizona University
OperatorNorthern Arizona University
Capacity11,230 - total
10,000 - permanent seats
1,230 seats in ten sections
of portable bleachers
SurfaceFieldTurf (2002–present)
AstroTurf (1977–2001)
Broke groundSeptember 4, 1975 [1]
OpenedSeptember 17, 1977 [2]
Renovated2010–2011 [3]
Construction cost$8.0 miilion
($33.1 million in 2018 [4])
ArchitectRossman and Partners[5]
Structural engineerJohn K. Parsons[5]
NAU Lumberjacks (NCAA)


Opened nameless in 1977,[2][6][7] the inaugural game was a one-point conference win over Montana before 12,860 on September 17;[7] it hosted five games that first season, with an average attendance of 13,029.[8] NAU football was previously played outdoors on natural grass at Lumberjack Stadium.[9][10] The dome hosted the Big Sky men's basketball tournament in 1987, 1997, 1998, and 2006.

For its first six years, the Walkup Skydome was the world's largest clear-span timber dome, until the completion of the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington, in 1983.[11] The architect was Wendell Rossman of Phoenix, also responsible for many other buildings on the surrounding NAU campus. The wood used in construction of Walkup Skydome was southern yellow pine. At its launching in 1977, it was the third indoor football stadium in the Big Sky Conference: Holt Arena at Idaho State in Pocatello opened in 1970 (as the "Minidome") and the Kibbie Dome at Idaho in Moscow was enclosed in 1975, after four years as an outdoor venue.

The Skydome is named after J. Lawrence Walkup (1914–2002), the president of NAU from 1957 to 1979, a period of tremendous growth for the university.[12][13][14] During an era of tight budgets in the mid-1970s, he creatively coordinated financing for the venue. More than half of the $8 million project came from voluntary student fee increases, supplemented with $1.5 million in legislative funding and a campus fund of $2 million from two decades of vending-machine revenue.[1] The athletic director at NAU at the time was Hank Anderson, who served from 1974 through 1983. The two-year-old Skydome was named for Walkup after his retirement in 1979.[15]

The elevation at street level is 6,880 feet (2,100 m) above sea level,[16] the highest among NCAA Division I FCS football stadiums and second among NCAA Division I football venues only to an FBS venue, Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium, by 335 feet (102 m). Originally AstroTurf, the playing surface for football was changed to infilled FieldTurf in 2002.


The building underwent a major renovation from December 2010 to September 2011 at a cost of $26 million. The scope of the project included bringing the fire, life, and safety up to code while remodeling the bathrooms, concourse, offices, suites, locker rooms, and press box. The athletic training and equipment on the main floor were also remodeled and three elevators were added to the complex. Fans now enter the building to a panoramic view of the field on the east and west concourses. Capacity was reduced to 10,000, but it now features 21-in-wide chair-back seating.[3]

Other uses

Besides sporting events, the arena is also used for commencement ceremonies, concerts, and other events such as conventions and trade shows. The arena floor features 97,000 square feet (9,000 m2) of space.

The Walkup Skydome was formerly used by the NFL's Arizona Cardinals during their summer training camp, held at NAU.[17] The Cardinals are able to move inside to conduct practice when the weather is unsuitable outdoors.[18]

See also


  1. Van Sickel, Charlie (January 10, 1982). "NAU brought the Big Sky indoors...cheaply". Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington. p. C3.
  2. "NAU opens play in domed stadium". Prescott Courier. (Arizona). September 15, 1977. p. 9.
  3. "Walkup Skydome Set to Reopen This Week with Fort Lewis Game". Northern Arizona Athletics. September 5, 2011. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  4. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  5. "Domes - timeline". Columbia University. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
  6. "Lumberjacks to open dome". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. September 17, 1977. p. 3B.
  7. "NAU gets its kick". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. September 18, 1977. p. 2B.
  8. "NAU dome aids attendance". Kingman Daily Miner. (Arizona). April 19, 1978. p. 12.
  9. "Vandals concerned with NAU". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). September 20, 1975. p. 17.
  10. Drosendahl, Glenn (September 21, 1975). "Idaho sends Lumberjacks back to woods". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). p. 1B.
  11. "Skydome Information". Northern Arizona University. Retrieved April 26, 2006.
  12. "J. Lawrence Walkup". NAU Library. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  13. "Former NAU president Walkup is dead at age 88". Kingman Daily Miner. Arizona. Associated Press. August 9, 2002. p. 3A.
  14. "J. Lawrence Walkup (1914-2002)" (PDF). Arizona Historical Society. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  15. "Dome may get new name". Kingman Daily Miner. Arizona. Associated Press. October 9, 1979. p. 3.
  16. Topographic map from USGS The National Map
  17. "Cards begins football camp with changes". Kingman Daily Miner. Arizona. Associated Press. July 14, 1997. p. 6.
  18. "Cardinals reach accord on training at NAU". Mohave Daily Miner. Kingman, Arizona. Associated Press. February 8, 1990. p. 8.
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