11 September 2023

'It's awful, and I'm just so sad': The Hannans' Dome dream ends in a flood

| James Coleman
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The Dome

Inside The Dome, the largest structure of its type in Australia. Photo: The Dome.

Fiona Hannan and her husband Andrew are preparing for a garage sale this Saturday, but far from just a random collection of bookshelves, chairs, eskies, balls, cricket sets and more, the items up for sale will be their “life savings”.

“It’s awful, and I’m just so sad,” Fiona says.

“Before this, you could stand in here and look around and it was jam-packed full of young people being physically active in a genuinely safe environment.”

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Fiona is a former two-time Olympian and Canberra Capitals player, and – together with her husband – spearheaded the reopening of the ‘Mpowerdome’ in Fadden last year.

The large tent-like indoor sports facility opened in 2006 as the largest structure of its type in Australia but closed 10 years later. New owners took over, and the Hannans approached them in early 2022 with a plan to bring community sport back to the southside. A lease was signed and the reopened section assumed the name of ‘The Dome’ from September 2022.

However, on 21 June this year, a fire hydrant burst in the middle of the night and flooded four of the courts with “millions of litres of water”. When Fiona and Andrew arrived the next day, the timber floor was “essentially a lake”.

“It was a write-off,” she says.

woman stands under basketball hoop

Fiona Hannan launched The Dome in about half of the courts at the indoor sports facility Mpowerdome in Fadden in 2022. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

Their insurance company agreed to foot the $1 million repair bill, but when the couple attempted to negotiate lower rent payments with the venue owner, they were met with a terminated lease and an order to remove all traces of their business from the building within 14 days.

Fiona says they were hoping for some leeway because of the “26 significant maintenance issues” raised with the owners in the lead up to the flood. These included fire hydrants, fire doors and ventilators that were either not working properly or not at all.

“We had been notifying them in writing for six months about significant things in the building needing repair, and we had been repeatedly asking them to repair the broken fire hydrant prior to it failing and flooding our part of the venue.”

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From the beginning, the couple has faced hardship in realising their Dome dream.

Initially, the focus was on bringing big basketball competitions to Tuggeranong, but after Basketball ACT told them there was insufficient demand down south, the Hannans were forced to diversify.

“We approached all of the local clubs, but the fact is the clubs have access to enough schools for their training, so they don’t really need it,” Fiona says.

They turned to hosting smaller basketball and volleyball events, along with multisport camps and activity days for kids to pay the bills. Courts were also available for hire.

The Dome

Basketball ACT spurned The Dome when it opened, and is instead lobbying the government for $30 million to expand its Belconnen facility. Photo: The Dome, Facebook.

The couple also make time for a not-for-profit basketball academy called ‘Scorer’s Academy’ out of Brindabella Christian College and Evelyn Scott School, which supports “kids who would otherwise fall through the gaps”.

“We offer Indigenous scholarships, disability scholarships, wheelchair scholarships, where we pay club fees for disadvantaged people who can’t afford to be part of a club.”

Many of these programs relocated to The Dome, and are the reason the community is now so “outraged” by the news they’re packing up.

“People have been so supportive, and some have even come to physically help us clear everything out.”

Fiona rules out a comeback, but the couple is investigating their legal options while the insurance company works through their claim.

“But that will happen over the next nine months and, unfortunately, the rules are that we must get out now and then legally fight later. So now we are selling literally all of our business assets because we don’t have anywhere to store a full basketball stadium’s worth of stuff.”

The other half of the building, leased by ACT Futsal and called the Canberra Futsal Centre, remains open.

ACT Futsal organiser Adam Villatobas says there have been no changes to regular competitions and training events.

“The only thing that’s changed, to be honest, is the fact that I’ve been getting bombarded by people thinking the whole building is closing and training is cancelled.”

The Dome is holding a ‘garage sale’ onsite at 56 Coyne Street, Fadden, from 9 am to 3 pm, on Saturday, 9 September.

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