Champagne. Brie. A shimmering disco ball. If every revolution began this way, there'd be total anarchy. Yet at the Skydome Lounge Tuesday night, high atop the Doubletree Hotel in Crystal City, the celebration of this revolving restaurant's 100,000th spin was a patently civilized affair.
Opened in December 1972, the Skydome is the only restaurant of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic region, it's sole counterpart on the Eastern seaboard being The View, at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. With a full, panoramic view of Washington, D.C., patrons had a chance to gaze at the dome of the Capitol building, the nearby Pentagon and the Washington Monument across the Potomac, as they toasted the restaurant’s presence in Arlington.
Spinning at a leisurely 8.9 rotations per day for 11,245 days, over the course of its 31-year history, the Skydome reached the 100,000 mark at 4:30 p.m. Propelled by a custom-built, 7.5-horsepower motor, each spin takes about 45 minutes at a speed of 1/29 of a mile per hour.
In a commemorative speech, Richard Doud, president of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, said, "Sometimes I think we take ourselves a little too seriously, but it's important to recognize occasions such as this. The Skydome has been a fixture in Arlington for a long time."
Doud also read a statement from County Board chairwoman Barbara Favola, calling the restaurant one of Arlington's "most popular and unique attractions."
THE CONCEPT OF a revolving restaurant began in 1961, with La Ronde, opening atop an office building in the Ala Moana Shopping Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. One year later, another opened at the point of the Seattle, Wash., Space Needle, as part of the 1962 World's Fair.
Revolving restaurants can be found throughout the world today, including the Al Fanar at Le Royal Meridien in Abu Dhabi and the M Revolving Restaurant in Singapore.
Over the years, the Skydome has changed somewhat. The bar, once fixed in the center of the turntable, was moved to a stationary alcove near the entrance, and the decor has been redesigned several times to fit modern tastes.
Now undergoing a $15 million renovation that includes a new lobby, fitness center, and a revamping of its 125 suites and 631 guest rooms, the Doubletree in Crystal City is buzzing with construction. Melanie Collier, the hotel's director of marketing, said the facelift is expected to be completed by January 2005, in time for the presidential inauguration. The Skydome will be refurbished as part of the renovation plan.
"The renovations, once completed, will only enhance the Skydome Lounge's reputation," Favola wrote.
General Manager Ron Simon said despite the changes, the Skydome will remain for years to come, and he credited the support of the Arlington community for the restaurant's continued success.
"All of these revolutions and evolutions have taken place within this community," he said. "There has been tremendous history here. It's wonderful that we can celebrate its 100,000th revolution, and it's even better that we're putting a fresh, new face on the lounge, along with the rest of the hotel."