Orange Watch: Return of fans inside Syracuse’s Carrier Dome a welcome site

Syracuse lacrosse
Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: The Syracuse lacrosse 17-13 victory Saturday over Vermont not only improved the Orange’s record to 2-1, but came before the first audience to be entertained in the renovated building in some 371 days.

Over the last year the most noticeable edifice in central New York has been home to plenty of construction workers, medical personnel, professors and students, and now at long last spectators at a sporting event.

The university finally received clearance from New York State and Onondaga County health department officials last week to end the in-person crowd restrictions. Initially, a maximum of 900 students, who both tested negative for COVID-19 at least 24 hours prior to the event, and passed a succeeding 15 minute rapid test administered in the Dome upon entry, are now allowed to sit socially distanced in the 100 level of seating, above the first seven row seat covers, to cheer on the Orange.

The first beneficiary of having real crowd noise inside the renovated stadium was the Top 10 ranked lacrosse team. The Orange subsequently delivered on their end, besting a challenge by unranked Vermont, and rewarding those who attended by scoring 17 times, providing the fans with the first glimpses of the jazzy new monstruous video board overhead, and the improved sound and lighting systems designed to maximize the fun of watching a game live inside.

» Related: Drake Porter’s career day leads Syracuse lacrosse past Vermont

“The players enjoyed (the spectators). They got a little bit of energy from that,” SU head coach John Desko said after the hard-fought win over UVM.

“A week ago (vs. Virginia) we relied on our sideline only to bring some energy to the players on the field. I think that (the fans) helped a little bit today. It was good to see people in the stands again, and I hope they’ll be more in the stands next week (Stony Brook on March 12), and more the following week (Hofstra on March 20).”

That’s likely to occur as the university analyzes how everything is working out with testing and safety protocols, moving on to the next step which will permit the general public to purchase tickets and maximizing the percent of capacity allowed inside.

“I love all our fans. I love Syracuse, I love the town, I love the city, I love the students,” said always upbeat Syracuse All American goalie Drake Porter who dazzled with a 20-save outing against UVM. “To have the people in there who can support us, who have supported us for a while, it means a lot to me. It’s exciting.”

Even watching the live broadcast of the game was more enjoyable because there were fans to be seen in the background, and with such a rare occurrence of limiting the number of people who would be happy to buy a ticket and make the trek to the Dome, those who did attend were heard loud in clear to all observers cheering on the Orange.

“It was definitely nice to have fans and see them,” attackman Stephen Rehfuss said after his huge day of two goals and six assists. “I don’t know how many we had, but it was definitely cool. I think it was almost a year ago today (March 7, 2020) we played at Hopkins with fans, so that was nice, and hopefully we can get more fans (in-person).”

After a year plus of empty seats, anything that resembles a return to normalcy at Dome sporting events bodes well for the rest of the spring semester, and first scheduled football game this coming September 11 against Rutgers.

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About Brad Bierman 749 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.