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Forty years ago, Roger Silva put his mark on the Tacoma Dome

Roger Silva stands wearing a yellow jacket and hard hat with the Tacoma Dome and highway in the background.
Freddy Monares
Roger Silva was part of the construction crew that assembled the Tacoma Dome's wooden roof. The dome opened 40 years ago, in April 1983.

The Tacoma Dome turns 40 this month.

At the time it was built, the rounded structure, which has become part of the city’s skyline, was considered to be the largest wooden domed structure in the world. It can hold up to 23,000 people.

The foundation of the dome is cement but the roof is made of wood, consisting of more than 1.5 million feet of wood board.

Do you have a Tacoma Dome memory? Share it with us.

Roger Silva was hired on as a welder for the project, then became part of the riser crew that set the last piece of the roof in place.

“It was a lot of connecting,” said Silva, who was in his early 30s when the dome was built. “Everything had to fit.”

As he spoke with KNKX All Things Considered host Emil Moffatt, it became clear that the work was an important part of his career and his life. When Silva came to the KNKX studios in Tacoma, he brought along memorabilia from that time – his jacket, a hard hat and blueprints for the Tacoma Dome roof.

“I even have my coffee mugs and my thermos that I had there,” Silva said. “Those big jobs like that, I don't take many pictures, but I do keep memorabilia. Certain pieces mean something to me that don't mean anything to anybody else.”

Listen to their conversation above, or read selected quotes below.

Roger Silva's finger points to a spot on an original blue print for the Tacoma Dome roof.
Freddy Monares
At the time it opened in April 1983, the Tacoma Dome was believed to be the largest wooden dome structure in the world.

Interview highlights

On how thousands of signatures from the Tacoma community wound up as part of the dome.

My boss says, 'Hey, why don't you grab a couple of guys and I want you to load all this stuff up. We're going to take it and assemble it up at the [Bicentennial] Pavilion. And they invited the public in. I don't think there was a square inch of the beams themselves that didn't have somebody's name on it. I couldn't believe how many names were on that thing. Later on, I guess they painted over that during the remodel.

On why his family’s name is still visible at the Tacoma Dome.

I was on pretty good terms with the company and I was able to take one of those [beams] home. It was the last one that was actually set in the Tacoma Dome, I took it home. I put my family's name on it, last name: Silva. They’re about nine-inch letters at the very top. If you go in the main door and look and squint, you can see up there, put my kids names and my wife and myself with a little heart.

On how often he’s been back to the Tacoma Dome since it was built.

I would say at least a dozen times, at least. And it's always a good reminder. But to me, to drive by it, often as I did. I can't help but not look at it. Well, you can't help but not look at it, as it sticks out like a sore thumb, and just remember when. It was a lot of fun. And it did change my career path, too.

On what it means that the Tacoma Dome is still standing 40 years later.

It feels good. It's nice to see. It's kind of an icon. Well, is an icon, I should say. I think the pride and the precision that went into it. And when your grandchildren and great-grandchildren (they call me 'papa') say ‘your papa worked on this along with a bunch of other guys’...I’ve been very, very fortunate in my career.

The City of Tacoma declared April 21 as Tacoma Dome Day, in honor of the venue's 40th anniversary. An anniversary celebrationis set for Friday and Saturday, April 28 and 29, featuring backstage tours, live demonstrations, and food and entertainment.

Freddy Monares has covered politics, housing inequalities and Native American communities for a newspaper and a public radio station in Montana. He grew up in East Los Angeles, California, and moved to Missoula, Montana, in 2015 with the goal of growing in his career.
Emil Moffatt joined KNKX in October 2022 as All Things Considered host/reporter. He came to the Puget Sound area from Atlanta where he covered the state legislature, the 2021 World Series and most recently, business and technology as a reporter for WABE. Contact him at