Don Moen Looks Back as his SunDome Project Celebrates its 20th Anniversary

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Michael and Don Moen

Celebrating its 20th birthday this year the Yakima SunDome is the largest concrete sectional domed roof facility in the West and is the only building in the world featuring a sequentially poured concrete roof.

Okay maybe the SunDome didn’t claim these titles until 2000 when the King Dome was demolished but that’s a quibble. Yakima’s structure is a tremendous engineering feat which was expertly constructed by Gilbert H. Moen Co. in 1990.

“The architect and engineers were geniuses” says Don Moen the second (of three) generation owner of the firm. It should last umpteen generations. I really enjoy the design; it was simple yet attractive.

As modest as Don is about building the engineering marvel with its 10 miles of electrical conduit 900000 pounds of reinforcing bar 1600 cubic yards of concrete and 6.6-million-pound domed roof the SunDome is only one of many signature products G.H. Moen Co. has constructed throughout the state. The firm’s diverse portfolio includes projects for CWU the Museum of Flight in Seattle and the Temple of Justice in Olympia. Moen won an AGC Build Washington Award for constructing the Children’s Village the highly-regarded treatment center in Yakima for children with special social and medical needs. Among Moen’s current projects is the expansion of Yakima’s legendary Capitol Theater.

Don says a key to Moen’s success has been hiring well. “We have had a lot of really good people” he says. “It seem like there’s somebody in every other office around town that originally worked here.” Even if they eventually move on people who work at Moen Construction generally do so for a long time. “Our employees’ average tenure is 12-18 years” says Don.

Another important element of the firm’s longevity has been its smooth generational transition.

Gilbert Moen launched the firm in 1933 focusing on home construction. After World War II the firm built many schools including projects at CWU and Yakima Valley College.

Gilbert was always interested in new construction techniques and was the first to use tilt-up construction north of Los Angeles in 1947. Moen also was among the first to use metal studs thin wall plaster Dryvit (a distributor) and concrete pumping.

Gilbert retired in 1969 and under Don’s leadership the company continued to thrive. Don’s son Michael took the reins in 1996.

Don says that even in retirement “I still come in everyday to see if there’s something Michael wants me to do.” But adorning the walls of the company’s office walls is evidence of Don’s primary avocation: photography.

“I got started in photography in junior high school” Don says. “I built a dark room and spent Saturdays listening to football and developing photos.” Don says processing photos – on a computer these days – is even more fun than taking them. He’s won several awards for his pictures at the Central Washington State Fair.

The subjects of his photos run the gamut from his grandchildren at play to scenes from locales throughout the world. Don and wife Kathy travel extensively and some of their journeys have been with AGC. “We went on a lot of the trips that AGC used to sponsor” Don says. “Greece Spain Mexico…I miss those trips.”

Don also remains heavily involved in the community. He helped establish the Yakima Schools Foundation and he was District Governor of Rotary in which he remains active. Red Cross and United Way are among the other groups he supports. “Seems like every group I get involved with I end up being president” he says.

Congratulations to Moen Construction on the 20th Anniversary of the SunDome that unlike the King Dome but much like Moen Construction itself is still going strong!