"Aging and in need of repairs:" Mitchell Park Domes closed for the weekend

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee County Executive’s office has decided to close all three of the Mitchell Park Domes this weekend over concern about falling debris. County officials say years of deferred repairs have taken a toll on the Milwaukee landmark. Some are now saying the Domes may be too far gone.

Mitchell Park Domes

The Mitchell Park Domes are a mainstay to Milwaukee County, playing host to events, while displaying plant life. But all of that wear and tear has taken a toll.

"It has gone well beyond its life cycle," said John Dargle, County Parks director.

Last week, a chunk of concrete fell from the Arid (desert) Dome forcing its closure. At a county finance meeting Thursday, Parks Director Dargle said years of deferred maintenance are to blame.

Mitchell Park Domes

"We've got to stop the bleeding here. We've got to turn the page on the Domes and look at that vision for the future of the horticultural conservatory," said Dargle.

Officials say while the building is structurally sound, the concrete casing is not.

Mitchell Park Domes

"I'm concerned," said Milwaukee County Board President Theo Lipscomb.

Lipscomb says repairs could be extremely costly.

"When you cheap out on maintaining your infrastructure, it adds up to millions of dollars in the end," said Lipscomb.

If repairs are not made, leaders say demolition could be on the table. Something Lipscomb says county officials are not being forthcoming about.

"I think the public deserves to know what the options are and how bad has the situation gotten and why," said Lipscomb.

Theo Lipscomb

Engineers are evaluating the structure and trying to figure out the next step to see if the Domes will have a future in the county.

"We have deep concerns, obviously, it's an iconic structure, a lot of people identify with it," Lipscomb said.

A spokeswoman for the County Executive says the office will be getting more information about the structure from an engineering firm next week. She says they plan to work with the Milwaukee County Board to figure out an action plan for the Domes.

A statement issued by Melissa Baldauff, Dir. of Communications on Friday, February 5th reads as follows:

"A conversation with our independent engineering firm late this afternoon confirmed that, while aging and in need of repairs, the Domes are structurally sound. However, there are still concerns about falling debris, so in an abundance of caution for the safety of the public and our employees we have decided to close all three Domes for the weekend pending further study. We expect to have more detailed information from the engineering firm early next week and look forward to partnering with the County Board to implement an action plan that reflects the community's wishes."

"The train and floral shows will be closed this weekend, however, the Farmers Market that takes place in the greenhouse annex will proceed as scheduled."

Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this developing story.