While Orono will always be Pat’s Pizza territory, the Pizza Dome setup shop just over the border in Old Town behind the McDonald’s on Stillwater Avenue. While Pat’s offered a dank, dimly lit, basement dining experience, the owners of the Pizza Dome wanted to create a different environment to draw in customers. In an attempt to cash in on the Buckminster Fuller craze, they decided to place their pizza establishment inside a Geodesic Dome. The timber-framed skeleton allowed for a massively high entire, which was fitting as most of the customers after 1am were also massively high.
The Pizza Dome was one of five founding members of the MOM, the MaineCard Off-Campus Merchant program. in the late 1990′s that allowed students to use their meal plan funds to purchase food and drinks and have them delivered to campus. With some of the fastest delivery drivers in the area, “The Dome” dished out their signature 18 inch pies all over campus and seemingly had found a winning formula. But not all was well beneath the glow of the red dome.
In the early 2000′s Old Town saw a bit of a boom with the addition of several chain restaurants such as Taco Bell, KFC, and Wendy’s; all were direct competition to the Pizza Dome in the fight to draw business off the student population. Perhaps the straw that buckled the dome was when the renovated Memorial Union opened with expanded food choices as well as newly renovated dining commons and markets across campus. After more than three decades of dedicated service, the Pizza Dome succumb to economic pressures and closed it’s doors in 2004. An attempt was made in 2008 to bring back the Pizza Dome name, but that plan has yet to materialize into anything more than talk at this point.
So the next time you hit-up the drive thru at McDonald’s take a look off to the north and reflect fondly on the Pizza Dome, a true legend in the rich history of dining options for UMaine students.