Today is April 1, and this column should have been my well thought out prank to have unfolded upon the readers. I’ve been planning an April fool’s column for nearly a year. But, it is doubtful with the health crisis surrounding us that anyone is really in the mood for jokes and games no matter how great the punchline was.
Instead, the topic today is about a significant event in Central New York sports history. A fact which should have been in the recent sporting news headlines, but because of the Covid-19 virus, barely received any attention whatsoever. The event was the deflation, and end of the iconic Carrier Dome roof.
Making matters worse, on a personal note, I should have been there to witness the occasion. I had a scheduled appointment at the Syracuse Veterans Hospital, which is right across the street from the Dome. The plan was for my early arrival at the Irving Avenue V.A. hospital parking garage to get a rooftop parking space and watch the dome deflation at near eye level.
Those plans were dashed on a Sunday evening because of a voice mail message telling me my scheduled V.A. appointment would be a stay-at-home “telemedicine” call with my doctor. All routine appointments at the V.A. hospital were canceled because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly everyone in central New York has attended an event at “the Dome” on the campus of Syracuse University. The Dome hosted Orange football and basketball games, concerts galore, the NYS high school field band championships, and even car-crushing monster truck shows.
So we are all clear, the building isn’t going away, but the recognizable, air-inflated Teflon coated fabric roof is now a thing of the past. The roof was deflated for the last time on Monday, March 16, 2020, at about 8:00 am.
The plan is for the inflatable roof to be replaced with a steel structure supporting a semi-solid, translucent roof membrane. This new roof will allow sunlight in, and better yet, it never needs to have lake-effect snow shoveled off. The steel structure supporting the membrane will be 80 feet taller than the current dome, which will add a new vista to the Syracuse skyline.
Let’s reminisce about that tremendous fabric-roofed venue known as the Carrier Dome. When the Carrier Dome was opened for its first home football game in September of 1980 is was immediately nicknamed The Loud House. Anyone who has attended a closely contested football game or an S.U. basketball game against Georgetown or Duke knows the reason why that moniker fits. The cheering fan noise inside is incredibly loud and intimidating for the opposing teams.
Here are some interesting facts about the Syracuse Dome. Even though it is named after an air conditioning company, the Dome was never fitted with any sort of air cooling system. However, it was equipped with an enormous inflation system that required redundant exit door air-locks to keep the inside pressurized. If too many exterior doors were opened at the same time, the roof would collapse.
The Dome has set record after record for on-campus basketball crowd attendance. My wife and I attended one of those games. It was the all-time record-breaking crowd at the Duke game of February 1, 2014, when there were 35,446 people inside that building, all at the basketball courtside seating. It was the NCAA attendance record, and even though Syracuse won in a thrilling 91–89 victory, the traffic jam getting off campus is just as memorable.
The total construction cost to build the Dome was about $27 million. (Current renovation estimates are $118M) When it was built, naming rights for stadiums were not really popular. The home town Carrier Corporation offered to help with initial building costs by donating a reported $2.75 million. In return, its company name and logo would be affixed to the Dome in perpetuity. In retrospect, the university naively went along.
Ever since, S.U. has been wishing that name would disappear from their Dome the same way the Carrier factory left Thompson Road. The university may finally have gotten their wish. If there is no longer a dome on top of their sports stadium, can it really still be called the Carrier Dome? There is probably a fan section worth of lawyers ready to debate that.
Whatever the stadium is called, it will be sad to no longer see the large white Dome dominating the Syracuse skyline, particularly when northbound on I-81. And what will become of the hundreds of signs depicting the pleated roof that directs travelers to “Dome Parking.” One of those signs would undoubtedly be a worthy souvenir to have hanging in your basement.
The end of the Carrier Dome also signals the end of the air pressure inflated domed roof stadiums in the United States. The S.U. Carrier Dome outlasted its twin in Minnesota known as the Metrodome, outlived the RCA dome in Indianapolis, and also the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. And one last renovation detail which adds insult to injury - the new Syracuse covered stadium will finally be air-conditioned.