Carrier Dome deflates its iconic rooftop

Carrier Dome lowers iconic rooftop

The nation's largest air-inflated stadium roof will be replaced with a more durable “tension membrane roof.”

One of the major steps in the Carrier Dome renovation was taken early Monday morning as the air-supported rooftop was lowered inside the sports stadium.

“That’s a milestone,” Syracuse University chief facilities officer Pete Sala said in an interview Thursday. “That’s the biggest milestone. And then the one after that would be completing the crown truss, the box you see going around the roof.”

View from atop the Sheraton Hotel as the Carrier Dome lowers its air-pressured roof on Monday, March 16, 2020.
View from the 9th floor of the Sheraton Syracuse Hotel as the Carrier Dome lowers its air-pressured roof on Monday.

The biggest changes to the fan experience will likely be the improved lighting and sound systems, which will be up to speed with Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, which are currently being built for the NFL teams in their respective cities. Along with the improved lighting and sound systems will be the addition of a large, center-hung video board and brand-new, high-definition video boards at each end of the stadium.

“When you see the amount of video and technology inside the building, just from the video and sound perspective, the lighting, it’s gonna be state-of-the-art,” Sala said.

The focus on the building’s changes and renovations is a stark contrast from what Sala and other Carrier Dome employees would normally be doing at this time of the year. Rather than preparing for a lacrosse or basketball game or changing over from turf to the basketball court or vice versa, SU athletics has vacated the building completely.

Sala says the weirdest part for him is not smelling the turf. Field turfs all have a distinct smell of ground-up rubber to them, he said, and now when he walks in the doors of the Carrier Dome, that smell is gone.

“It is freaking me out,” Sala said. “My wife asked me the question, ‘what’s going on Saturday?’ I’m so used to it either being a changeover or work, this time of year we would be prepping right now.”

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A view of the deflated dome from the pedestrian bridge over Crouse Avenue.

Aside from the effect on SU Athletics, Sala believes the improvements will also change the concert scene inside the Dome tremendously. His earliest memories from starting work at the building 38 years ago are the four major rock shows they used to hold every year.

Every time an artist or athletic team would come to the Dome, their tractor-trailer would have to be dropped off in the street because it couldn’t fit in the Dome’s doors, so smaller trucks would have to shuttle back and forth from the stadium to the street. Now, multiple doors will be able to be opened at once and getting equipment into the building will be easier and faster.

“I’ve had two promoters call me and say, ‘Am I reading this right, Pete, you’re putting air conditioning in?'” Sala said. “I’m like, ‘Hell yeah.'”

Sala said the biggest emotion he’s feeling right now is stress because he and the other workers are all accountable for a timeline. To remind them of this, they have a countdown clock in their job office that is ticking down to Syracuse’s football game against Colgate, the first event scheduled in the Dome after the renovations.

“The thing that people don’t understand is that that end date doesn’t move,” Sala said. “So every job meeting you go to, you see how many days are left on that clock, and it’s surreal. The date is the Colgate game. That’s what everything points to.”