Orange Watch: New era for Syracuse in renovated Carrier Dome

Syracuse football Carrier Dome
Syracuse football from the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: Following six and a half months of work and a $118 million price tag, the new-look Dome is ready for Saturday’s Syracuse football game against Georgia Tech (12:00 p.m., ET / ACC Regional Sports Networks), even minus the general public.

What if they modernized the 40-year-old Dome and no one showed up?

If there was ever an irony, due to New York State health regulations during the reality of a national pandemic, that will practically be the case Saturday afternoon when a Georgia Tech football team makes it first-ever appearance on the SU campus.

No ticket-holding spectators will be allowed inside, leaving game personnel, building support staff, and a reduced number of media members as the only folks in attendance.

It was the exact opposite 40 years ago this past Sunday, September 20, 1980, when an overflow crowd of 50,564, still a home football game record, sat through a sweltering evening watching in awe inside the first domed stadium in the northeast as the Orangemen defeated Miami (Ohio) 36-24.

Attending the opener, we distinctly remember rhetorically asking other folks around us, “is this game really taking place on the Syracuse campus where Archbold Stadium used to be?”

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Fast forward four decades later and the modernization of central New York’s most famous landmark, now replete with its roller coaster-looking support structure holding the new permanent roof in place, has brought the building up to speed with sports and entertainment venues across the country.

Under the attention-to-detail direction of the university’s Vice President and Chief Facilities Officer Pete Sala, the list of upgrades (other than the major element of replacing the air-supported roof) in phase one of a multi-year project are many and impressive:

  • The massive (62.5 X 20 foot dimension) four-sided scoreboard/video boards hanging from the roof (a feature severely lacking from an indoor sports arena during the 2000s).
  • Four additional 20 X 10 foot video boards in each corner of the building.
  • An improved sound system and lighting (the sound has been challenging since the building opened with its air-supported Teflon roof).
  • Improved WiFi capabilities for 2020s device demand.
  • Leveling the field turf playing surface and patching some spots.
  • Initial upgrades to some restrooms and concession areas.
  • Improvements to the locker room areas, individual suites, and the press box.
  • Portions of the building having the capability of air conditioning (although the forecast for Saturday is a high of 78 degrees under sunny skies, and not a lot of body heat).
  • Accessibility requirements to conform to the American with Disabilities Act.
  • A modernized air filtration system to help circulate the air flow in a COVID-19 environment.

Notable visual changes due to NCAA rules alterations and no fans in the stands include:

  • Expanded sideline boundaries on each side that cover 70 yards.
  • Field access only to the teams/staff, game officials, security, building support personnel, and a limited number of photographers.
  • Seat cover tarps encompassing the first seven rows of lower level sections.

Asked Monday at his weekly press conference about finally playing a game at the modernized facility, Dino Babers, the seventh ‘Cuse football coach to call the Dome home in its 40 seasons, said he’s looking forward to the newness of it all.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to be in there since the last time we’ve been in there. I kind of have my hands full doing some other things,” Babers responded indicating he’s been solely focused on overcoming the team’s 0-2 start in consecutive road games.

“It will be really exciting, especially for the young men to finally get in there and see all the facelift things that they’ve done. Everyone tells me it truly looks amazing.”

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 686 Articles
Now in his sixth 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.