ANCHORAGE - An inflatable dome as tall as a six-story building has sprung up in South Anchorage, much to the dismay of its neighbors.
But the owner of the new indoor driving range said he hasn't finished decorating the black-and-white bubble. A city skyline etched on its side will look like trees, as originally promised.
"Wait till it's done," said Bob Klein, owner of Tanglewood Lakes Golf Club, "and then complain."
The polyvinyl dome rose in about two hours last week, inflated like a balloon by an air pump. It stands 70 feet high and has a base measuring 190 feet by 300 feet.
Starting this month, as many as 40 golfers at a time will get to practice their swings, regardless of the weather. Klein expects 75 percent of the range's business will occur from January through May.
While golfers are most interested in the interior, it's the exterior that has people talking. Hills to the north, south and east shield the facility from view, mostly.
Four years ago, when the Anchorage Assembly rezoned the lot and paved the way for the proposed new business, Assemblyman Dick Tremaine suspected it would be controversial.
"I think there are going to be a lot of surprised people when this goes in," he said at the time.
He was right. He and members of the Huffman-O'Malley Community Council said Friday they've been getting calls all week, none of them complimentary, about the newest building in the neighborhood, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
"I haven't found anybody that says it looks nice and fits in," said Tremaine, who joined Anna Fairclough to vote against the rezone in 1999. "Without a doubt, it's not what we expected."
Some people have complained about the size or its effect on the wetlands beneath, which had to be covered by a thick gravel pad before the dome could be erected and a parking lot built.
But what irritates many is the decorating scheme, Tremaine said. A black-and-white silhouette ringing the top is variously described as houses, skyscrapers or mountains.
They're definitely not trees, as Klein promised the Planning and Zoning Commission when he sought permission to build the range. He eventually got a conditional use permit that stipulates the dome will feature trees to help it blend into the background.
On Friday, as Klein oversaw work at the driving range, he said he hadn't heard much negative response. Golfers are excited, he said. "They want to know when we're going to open."
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