I recently was part of a conversation regarding college basketball venues. The general consensus among my peers seemed to indicate that arenas like Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium and Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse were the best arenas. They’re cozy, loud, and full of antiquated history.
But none of those people whom I was engaging in conversation with attended Syracuse in the Carrier Dome era. And if you haven’t stood in the student section in the largest on-campus arena in college basketball, then you’re just as biased as I am for having experienced the Dome.
The Dome is a part of this year’s undefeated squad. It may not win games, but the 30,000-plus fans offer the players a reason to be amped. I know people say small arenas can be very loud, which may be true. But having thousands of more fans than other teams is some kind of boost.
I almost always see pockets of empty seats in the stands for supposed “basketball powers.” I never see empty pockets in the Dome for basketball.
The Dome is a mystical power. I’ve thankfully never been in a tornado, but I can imagine that the gust that shoves you out of the Carrier Dome when you exit its doors feels like a lesser version of one. Its white, fluffy roof looks like a moon bounce.
I know it is not perfect. Its concrete structure offers little beauty. While there have been recent upgrades, the good ‘ol Dome is more than 30 years old. But it’s not the looks that make it a boon for SU basketball. It’s intensity of 35,000 orange-clad fans.
Before the Duke game this season, I was happy about rumblings of a possible new arena for Syracuse basketball. While the Dome is OK, it’s not modern, nor is it old enough to be cute and old like Duke’s Cameron or Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse. But the Duke game reminded me of the advantage the Carrier Dome provides: sheer orange.
I looked at the TV and saw orange on orange on orange. Memories of games against Villanova and Georgetown, which were record-attendance games at the time, came flooding back. When SU played Villanova four (four already?!) years ago in the Dome, setting what was then an attendance record, it was evident as the game wore on that SU would win. I remember Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, and Arinze Onuaku basking in the cheers from the Dome’s masses. The seats went on and on and on, seemingly into Marshall Street.
And with this year’s Duke game, I was reminded, that despite its average appearance, the Carrier Dome could hold more power than any little 10,000 person or any big 20,000 arena could hold. The look on the players’ faces tells us that.
The Dome, like other college venues, gets loud. And the energy, while I’m sure similar to that of other schools, is more magnified. In this case, quantity is quality. And ‘Cuse does it bigger than anyone else. Doesn’t hurt that Orange is such a bright color.
The SU basketball program doesn’t blend in. It stands out. It stands out with the Dome, a Dome I am now more appreciative of because of its uniqueness. Everyone has a different opinion on the Dome. But there’s no denying this: when Syracuse plays anywhere else, there will inevitably be fewer fans in the stands. Not every school can claim the Carrier Dome, after all.