After years of fundraising, construction delays and the filing of pending litigation, the Garden City Family YMCA’s Dome facility opened Thursday with prayers, applause and pencils put to membership cards.

The space is now officially open to the public, operating under a temporary certificate of occupancy until a permanent license can go before the Garden City Commission in two weeks, said YMCA CEO Chad Knight.

“This has been a long journey, let me tell you,” Knight told community members at the opening under the long-awaited dome. Memberships were available for a discount in honor of the event.

The Dome, a permanent, inflatable gym located on the Kenneth Henderson Middle School campus off Fleming Street, is a sizable facility comprised mostly of three multi-purpose courts, which can be used for basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis and pickleball, Knight said. Along the sidelines of the three courts sits a functional fitness area, including weights, exercise equipment and a Queenax machine, as well as a walking and running track.

A baseball and softball area, including batting cages, pitching mounds and a soft toss/batting tee space, will also be included, but not for several weeks, Knight said. Several of the project’s outdoor landscaping elements are also still underway.

The YMCA is selling bricks for a display in front of the facility as a fundraiser, Knight said. Locals can buy engraved bricks for $1,000 to raise money for the project, Knight said.

According to news releases, the Dome will be the main location for YMCA sports programs, leagues, tournaments and special events, and will host competitive youth leagues, sport specific training and functional fitness classes. All YMCA teams will practice and play their games at the Dome.

Stacy Castoe will serve as the Dome's operations director.

“We hope (the Dome) will be a multi-functional facility that’s open to everyone of all ages to really utilize all the amenities that it has to offer. That’s the goal. We want it to be a hotspot for kiddos,” Knight said.

The facility will be open to the public from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

As intended from the project's inception, the space will also serve as practice space for KHMS P.E. and athletic programs, Knight said. On weekdays, the school will have access to two of the three courts, the track and fitness area as needed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for school day activities and from 3 to 5 p.m. for athletic practices, Knight said. The school may also use the space for games on some weekends, he said. He said at least one multi-purpose court will be reserved for the public at all times.

In a news release, Garden City USD 457 superintendent Steve Karlin said he was “very pleased to see the project come together” and looked forward to continuing working with the YMCA.

Locals can join the Dome or add the facility on to their YMCA membership. YMCA members can add on Dome membership for $10 a month, and memberships for the facility on its own range from $13 to $24 a month, depending on age. All new memberships include a $25 initial joining fee.

The Dome, originally scheduled to be completed by August 2017, has experienced several delays over the past two years. Knight has said previously the delays in the latter half of 2018 were the fault of Charter Matrix, the original manufacturer for the project. The company took long stretches of time to acquire parts and equipment and, Knight claims, breached its contract with the YMCA for using a less durable fabric than the one the two parties agreed to.

In May, Knight told the USD 457 Board of Education that Charter Matrix's work was “horrid,” noting that the dome fabric became unattached from its frame in three corners and along doorways and suffered damages to the inner membrane and seam.

Charter Matrix president Jim Roesner previously told The Telegram he denied the accusations, claiming he had written authorization from the YMCA to use the new fabric, which he said is stronger than the original fabric. He said he still possessed the authorization but declined at the time to show it to The Telegram.

Roesner said that over the three years it took the YMCA to raise funds for the project, vendor prices rose significantly higher than his original quote to the YMCA. He said he stuck to the quote out of dedication to the project, but finding money for the extra costs slowed the work. He said he was losing money on the project.

The YMCA been investigating a breach of contract from Charter Matrix in December, inspecting the dome and submitting samples of its fabric to a lab soon after. In February, they announced a new dome manufacturer, Air Structures American Technologies Inc., or ASATI, would complete the project.

Lab results have since confirmed that Charter Matrix used a lesser-quality fabric, Knight said, and the YMCA, represented by Garden City attorney Richard Marquez, has filed litigation against Charter Matrix. The process is ongoing, he said.

“We’re still moving forward on that. Just investigating still, researching still,” Knight said. “It’s just a waiting game.”

He declined to elaborate.

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.