Syracuse’s Carrier Dome turns 40 years old, gets new look

SYRACUSE, NY (AP) – Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome opened 40 years ago with a crowded crowd that set a record attendance that still persists.

Pete Sala recalls when the dome was just an idea on paper.

It was the late 1970s, he was in high school, and the university had decided to replace the aging Archbold Stadium with an interior in the same spot with an air-assisted roof. Sala’s father, John, was the university’s physical facility director and brought home some of the drawings of the new building.

“I remember talking at the kitchen table when my dad said Jim (Boeheim, the basketball coach) was kicking and screaming,” said Sala, now vice president and chief campus facility officer in charge of the dome. “We had to pull Jim down here and now look at this place. Who would have imagined that? “

Certainly not Boeheim, who had become a coach in 1976 and had great success at the noisy Manley Field House, which had almost 10,000 seats.

“I remember. I was very skeptical,” said Boeheim. “I had a meeting with (Vice Chancellor) Cliff Winters. He ran the university. We won about 50 games in a row (at home) and I said,” Well, me Really like where we are. “And he explained to me,” We have this building and not only can we play six football games there. We can’t afford it. We are going to play in the dome (basketball). ‘I said OK.’ That was the end of this conversation. “

The Teflon-covered structure cost $ 26.85 million and was named after Carrier Corporation, which paid $ 2.75 million for the perpetual naming rights. This is a financial mistake that the school is trying to correct. The first soccer game at the Carrier Dome was September 20, 1980, and the location was an instant hit. The Orange defeated Miami of Ohio 36-24 in front of 50,564 fans, still the attendance record.

Four decades later, the dome has a newly completed roof that is not supported by air. This is part of a $ 118 million renovation. The project required 4,000 tons of steel and just under 3 hectares of fabric for the new roof (the old roof was 6.5 hectares), which is designed for 7,700 tons of snow.

Also included is a centrally suspended display board that is more than 30 meters wide and almost 20 meters high and has four equal sides. The lighting and sound have been improved.

The irony of having the Dome named after a company known for its air conditioning products and not having that luxury for four decades eventually becomes an old joke. The air conditioning is part of the renovation.

From early rock concerts with U2 and Pink Floyd in a few days: “I think we rolled well over 100 tractor units through the building on these two weekends. It was crazy, ”Sala recalled – the effects of the dome were significant. More than 16 million people have played basketball games.

Since the building opened, Orange under Boeheim have taken first or second place nationwide in all but five seasons. The founding of the Big East Conference in 1979 and the arrival of the country’s best basketball recruit, Pearl Washington, four years later, fueled success at the gate.

“We thought if we could put 15,000 people there it would be great,” said Boeheim. “When Pearl came we went straight to 25,000. Nobody saw it coming. Nobody could ever have imagined that we would have an average of over 20,000 people per game for what is now, 30 years, possible with (little) parking spaces. Our fans are unmatched just because they have to do something to get to the game. “

The first event in the renovated building will be a home football game against Georgia Tech on national television on Saturday. For Sala, whose crews have kept the building in remarkable shape over the years despite the harsh New York upstate winters, it will be a bittersweet moment without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Yeah, it bothers me a little,” he said. “But we will simulate a game atmosphere. I think it will allow us to really present the place the way we should when we finally open the doors, which I am excited about.

“What comes to mind is the space required by the Carrier Dome, which takes up 20,000 square meters less and holds twice as many people as Archbold. That’s a nice fact. It was kind of a shoehorn in this place and see what it brought to the church. “


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