Orange Watch: Future of Syracuse athletics migrating down E. Colvin Street

Item: A recent inspection of the growing Orange athletic facilities surrounding Manley Field House leads to a conclusion that the future crown jewel of Syracuse sports will move closer to the Manley home base.

Syracuse, N.Y. –Late last month, still relatively new Syracuse chancellor Kent Syverud said in an interview that the university has two years to decide what to do about the aging Carrier Dome roof, last replaced in 1999-2000.

Construction of the new indoor football practice facility is underway at the sprawling Lampe Athletics Complex.  The building rising on the site is slated to open in Dec.

Construction of the new indoor football practice facility is underway at the sprawling Lampe Athletics Complex. The building rising on the site is slated to open in Dec.

Should the air-supported Teflon structure be upgraded at a cost of some $25 million dollars, or should the air-supported model, popular in the 1980s with the since-closed Silverdome, Metrodome, and Hoosier Dome joining the Carrier Dome which made its debut in Sept. 1980, be replaced by new retractable roof technology, or even a permanent roof supported structurally within the original building configuration?

The third option Syverud mentioned following a report he received from a school advisory group as to what SU would be forced to do logistically if the Dome roof were to fail, was to build, or partner with the building of a brand new off-site venue, with the obvious questions of where it would sit, who would pay for it, who would operate it, which men’s/women’s programs would call it home, and how a change of location just off the Quad from where football games have been played for over 100 years, and basketball/lacrosse for nearly 35 seasons, would affect the biggest stakeholders to Syverud, the students.

» Related: Syracuse football indoor practice venue is coming

A couple of days after the chancellor’s comments, we were observing all the midday hustle and bustle outside of the entire Lampe Athletics Complex and beyond and our thoughts kept reverting back to the fact that this is the area of campus where Orange athletics truly reside, it’s only on game day (obviously as important as that is) when the action shifts up Comstock Avenue.

Not only was the construction humming along last week on the site of the new indoor football practice facility just a short stroll from the football building, and with an expected December completion date, but there was scattered activity about the practice fields that stretch several blocks down E. Colvin Street to the Hookway Fields section, the mini-complex that contains seven more natural grass practice fields.

Go less than a mile further down E. Colvin from Hookway, then make a right turn on Nottingham Road, and there sits the public west golf course of university-owned Drumlins Country Club, which to us makes so much sense as the site of the future (fill in the blank here with a financial institution name) Syracuse Sports and Entertainment Center (SSEC) to replace the now outdated (but still highly functional) Dome, with plenty of room for parking and access, unlike the increasingly tight space between the Dome and I-81 today.

The SSEC would be the brand new home of Ernie Davis Legends Field, Jim Boeheim Court, concerts, graduations and other varied events, and would dominate the sprawling South Campus sports complex stretching from the Melo Center, Manley, and the fields surrounding the new football indoor practice building, to the Tennity Ice Pavilion and softball diamonds atop Skytop, down past Hookway and over to Drumlins.

Why Drumlins? The property is accounted for, and a modern, 21st century multi-sport facility (with overhead videos boards rotating by sport) would be the pride of the ACC, and no doubt in the regular rotation to host the NCAA East Regionals plus other NCAA events – Frozen Four anybody?

While the valuable land where the Carrier Dome resides is isolated from the rest of the athletic department, it is directly adjacent to the heart of campus for an ever-growing university under Syverud’s developing tenure. Think of the academic facilities and student housing that could be constructed on the Dome’s large acreage into the 2020s.

» More Orange Watch: Hard to imagine Syracuse basketball without Jim Boeheim, isn’t it?

Funding between the university and the state will need to be put in place down the road with negotiations on various political levels. Zoning, permits, environmental, and infrastructure issues, including making a stadium connection to I-481 also have to come into play with the various levels of government agencies, but we already know the ball had been rolling towards plans for a modern, retractable roof building in the city of Syracuse even before Syverud succeeded Nancy Cantor last December.

As for the student stakeholders, remember, the migration from Main Campus to South Campus for games has occurred regularly since Manley opened in 1962. Getting students over to the Drumlins location is simply 1.3 miles further than going to root for the current programs that call the Lampe Complex or Skytop home, and besides, the new, state-of-the-art student sections to be built for football and ringing the court for basketball, specifically designed to add to the home stadium advantage and intimidate the visitors, will need a new nickname.

From The Manley Zoo, to The Loud House, to the… (blank). Have a suggestion?

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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