By SUSAN EMERSON NUTTER
HANOVERTON, Ohio — “It’s my two dollar steak,” said Dr. David Smith, DVM, of the new structure he and his wife, Jackie, recently built at Stone Gate Farm near Hanoverton, Ohio.
“You know, when you go to the grocery store to get steak because it’s on sale and you walk out with $100 worth of groceries you didn’t know you needed. Yep, that’s what this is. And it’s all the Farm and Dairy’s fault,” said Smith.
(Scroll down for some photos from the construction process, courtesy of Stone Gate Farm.)
Seems Smith was intrigued by a Farm and Dairy classified ad that ran in an October 2011 issue. Offered for sale were 18 fiberglass dome roofs. Huge roofs. One hundred feet in diameter roofs. They once topped the City of Akron’s Water Treatment plant’s sewage treatment tanks, or as Smith calls them, “poop pits.”
The roofs were no longer needed, and though the city first contemplated removing the roofs, crushing them with bulldozers and dumping the remains in a landfill, they instead placed an ad in the Farm and Dairy to see if there were any takers — at $5,000 a pop.
“I thought that was a really great deal, Smith said. “And we also liked the ‘green’ aspect of reusing a roof instead of having it go into a dump.”
Smith and his wife, Jackie had discussed constructing a covered round arena at Stone Gate Farm, their 111-acre facility that hosts numerous equine eventing competitions and clinics.
“Including the roof, I thought I could get the whole thing built for $30,000,” Smith added.
Well, $46,000 later, the new arena is a reality, and Smith is still shaking his head.
“It was an adventure, that’s for sure, he said.
Once it was decided that the Smiths would purchase a roof, the structure was dismantled by the Great Lakes Construction Company of Hinckley, Ohio, into its 34 panels — 17 of which have windows — and was hauled by Doug Davidson Trucking of Salem, Ohio, on semis — five loads worth — to the farm.
The panels measure 50 feet long and 9 feet wide at the base.
“The cost to haul the panels was only $2,500, which was reasonable,” Smith explained.
The panels arrived at the farm in December where they were stored through the winter with a June 2012 construction date in mind. Smith spent the winter researching just how to make an arena worthy of the roof. With the mild spring, the project’s start date was pushed ahead to late April/early May.
“We picked the location for the arena — a sheltered area in valley of sorts — and I dug the foundation the last weekend in March,” Smith said.
It took about four weeks to get the site ready and prepped for phase two — pouring the concrete walls. Yes, concrete — all 162 yards of it hauled by seven cement trucks from Chappell & Zimmerman of Salem, Ohio.
The roof weighs in at more than 18 tons. The only walls that could support it had to be of concrete.
Smith hired Precision Poured Walls of Holmes County, who put up the curved wall forms in a couple days and, with the help of a concrete pumper, had the walls poured in just a few hours.
“That concrete pumper was something to see, Smith said. “We had to let the walls set for three weeks, and then it was time to put on the roof.”
Tony Weaver and crew from Weaver Construction, of Leetonia, Ohio, were called in to do the job. Anchoring bolts had to be drilled into the walls and a huge crane was employed to lift and place each panel.
The fact that the cement walls were 1-1/4 inches too small was a concern, but was addressed as the work progressed by grinding a little off each panel as they were put into place. The panels overlap and lock into place.
“The roof went together reasonably well until we had about half of them up and the weight of the panels was putting uneven pressure on the walls causing them to shift,” Smith said.
Good old farmer ingenuity fixed that. One tractor, one excavator, one dozer and several cables stabilized everything and the roof-laying continued. All went well until the last panel was to be placed.
Remember, the panels overlap and lock together. In the end, the header for the entry (where the last panel was going) was removed; the final panel was lifted up from the inside, and tilted so it could go under panel #1 and over panel #33.
Jackie writes about placing the final panel on her blog (where she recorded the entire arena building process from start to finish), “While the crane lifted, Smith’s loader tractor tipped it while the guys muscled it into place. With a bit more muscle, the header was replaced, the roof’s top cap was lifted and seated on the dome and the arena was done.”
“All that’s left is to grade around the arena and throw down some grass seed,” Smith said.
Since the structure has 17 windows, no electricity is needed to supply light for now.
The Smiths plan to use the arena for riding, of course.
“But such a structure will also work well as a go-to shelter for guests of our events if bad weather rolls through,” Jackie added.
Stepping inside what has been called everything from “Dave’s Big Idea” to “The Spaceship,” one is initially overwhelmed by the structure’s vastness. The dome ceiling rises to 25 feet at the center with the cement walls that make the surround being 10 feet high.
“It definitely has the ‘wow’ factor,” Smith said. “And all of this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t opened the Farm and Dairy.”
“Your publication has cost me a great deal of money,” he adds with a smile.