Item: it was the ironic twist of fate. After the university spent $118 million in a tight timeline to boot, to renovate and modernize the Dome, the emergence of the pandemic has limited the experience to be enjoyed by only a slim number of Orange fans watching lacrosse this spring. That dynamic will change come September 11, 2021, when Syracuse hosts Rutgers in the second game (Sept. 4 at Ohio) of the football season.
When you think back, there was a huge difference in the homefield advantage for a select few ACC school’s last season. Led, of course, by Clemson which averaged it’s allowed 23% capacity at Memorial Stadium – 19,000 fans per game, while Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame (one time ACC member), Virginia and Virginia Tech also played in front of crowds of varying sizes.
Syracuse did not host any spectators under its new permanent roof in 2020, and maybe that was best in a 1-10 season.
The visual of an enormous video screen hanging above the field, the clearer sound of the music and public address system, and the sensory-testing mix of lighting on display during televised games made it all that more alluring, and frustrating, not to be able to experience the atmosphere first-hand.
Fast-forwarding to the spring, still some four months from football season, there’s been additional items checked off the list of building upgrades including efforts to better comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, much-needed improvements to concession areas and restrooms, striking new graphics and painting throughout the upper level, and the biggest comfort aid of all, air conditioning.
The stifling heat and humidity in the Dome during early season football games, when the weather outside was sunny and hot with so few openings in the air-supported stricture up top to bring in some amount of “fresh” air, was at times tortuous.
Except to head coach Dino Babers. He always enjoyed the muggy weather playing havoc and providing a tangible edge by helping the opposition tire more readily by the fourth quarter of games played in those elements.
Now with cool air that’s gone, but after a season lost to the pandemic and a year-long plus thirst to play in front of Orange Nation, Babers will settle for the trade-off.
“The Dome advantage,” Babers recited on the ACC Network last week, a day before wrapping up spring drills with 15 practices and a scrimmage.
“The home crowd and playing in the Dome is a huge advantage for Syracuse,” he continued. “I can’t tell you how much that hurt us (in 2020). I can’t wait to get our fanbase back in that brand new stadium, that they have not had the pleasure of being in yet, they have not sat in a seat, those football fans haven’t.”
The historical average temperature in Syracuse on September 11 is 74 degrees. If that average holds, combined with relaxed restrictions allowing for a crowd of, let’s say 30,000-35,000 for the Rutgers game with a 12:00 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. start, without AC it would get pretty toasty, pretty quickly.
This coming season that will be a not-so-fond memory for fans, their attention shifted and focused to the more comfortable atmosphere and amenities, and what happens on the field as Babers and his most experienced roster in his six year tenure understand the need to win now.
“To get that place full, to get our 12th man back (is critical),” Babers added. “So that we can have the advantages we need to have in this conference at home.”