Orange Watch: From Carrier to JMA Wireless Dome for Syracuse

Carrier Dome
The Carrier Dome. Mandatory Photo Credit: Brad Bierman, The Juice Online.

Item: With a formal announcement expected in the coming weeks from Syracuse University, the athletic department has found a new revenue source by moving on from its 40 years plus relationship with Carrier Global Corp., and partnering with Syracuse-based technology company JMA Wireless in a naming rights deal for the Dome, and to enhance the wi-fi service inside the building.

What a difference a day makes.

Just last Thursday we were spotlighting the latest and greatest seating improvements at the Carrier Dome.  

A day later came the news, first reported by Sportico,  that the university had reached a financial settlement with Carrier to terminate the original and perpetual money-losing branding arrangement with the company, and negotiate a new deal with JMA Wireless.

It’s a game-changer for the school about to enter its 10th season in the ACC, one that should command an industry-estimated $3M plus in annual revenue.  

Just as importantly the move will provide an economic solution to enhance the building’s wireless technology, a perennial on-going issue with inadequate connectivity speeds for both spectators using their mobile devices, and those working on gamedays utilizing computers.  

The history of the Carrier name associated with the Dome takes one back to a different late 1970s era in central New York.  The university desperately needed a cash infusion to stem the tide of rising interest rates to borrow money, and financing for the project had to be secured to keep the building’s construction schedule on time for a September 1980 opening.  

» Related: Carrier Dome plans renovation to state of the art facilities

By early 1979, the university was allocating money ($6.5M) from its own major fundraising plan to add campus buildings and curriculum programs, while seeking to finalize a commitment from New York State ($16M) to keep pace with the increased costs to build the structure. 

An ongoing pitch went out to private businesses and individual donors to meet the final price tag pegged at close to $27M.

In February 1979, some three months removed from SU playing its final football game at Archbold Stadium, and with plans to play the entire 1979 football season outside of Syracuse, chancellor Melvin Eggers held a press conference at Drumlins Country Club.  

Carrier Corporation chairman Melvin Holm had agreed to provide $2.75M towards the financial goal, announced Eggers, which not only answered the school’s financial plea, but served as a way for Holm to reassure the community that the Syracuse-area’s largest employer was committed to staying in the region.  

Eggers was so enthralled with Carrier’s commitment he gifted the company the rights to attach its name to the building, thus – the Carrier Dome.  It was the first-of-its-kind arrangement with a college sports facility in 1979, but one that had aged rapidly just a decade later.

It’s also a deal that the university has been trying to untangle in earnest the last three years when the name “Carrier Dome” started to be omitted from individual sport’s media guides and press releases, but remained on the building’s exterior wall and in view of TV cameras on and around the playing surfaces in order to avoid contractual violations.  

The name change has now been accomplished.  Welcome to the JMA Wireless Dome era of Syracuse athletics.  

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About Brad Bierman 843 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.