Syracuse students hunker down for a snowy Carrier Dome camp-out
SU students hunker down for snowy Carrier Dome camp-out
It’s 23 degrees in Syracuse, New York. Snow spirals in the Friday night and the Carrier Dome’s LED roof glows red through the haze.
Tents lay staggered on slushy concrete beneath the cover of Gate’s D and E. Syracuse students, clinging to blankets, pillows and air mattresses, are the new residents.
They eat Tully’s buffalo chicken tenders and play “Uno” with Disney characters on the cards. They call themselves “Otto’s Army.” Their pop-up village, “Boeheimburg”, bears the name of the Syracuse men’s basketball coach they hope will lead the Orange over Duke on Saturday night.
Some of them have not slept in hours. All of them are cold. Still, they smile.
“If I die, I die,” said sophomore Alex Haas. “It’s for Syracuse basketball. It’s worth it.”
Tent construction started on Thursday at 6 p.m. Hailey Fried, a freshman ambassador for “Otto’s Army”, said 23 tents shelter 2-4 students each, all of whom have already purchased tickets to Saturday’s game. Sleeping outside the Carrier Dome’s emergency exit doors ensure the eager SU supporters a spot near the action come tip-off.
Haas, who believes Syracuse will upset the No. 7 team in the country on Saturday, is one of those fans. He said a late arrival to Syracuse’s October football game against Clemson landed him in the upper deck, far from the action.
“I vowed never again,” said Haas who spent Friday night and Saturday morning in the Gate D neighborhood. “I was like, ‘I’m going to camp out. I have to be in the front for this.'”
Haas set up his tent, which held two blankets, a sleeping bag and a backpack with three water bottles, around 8 a.m. Friday morning. He spoke highly of the Orange despite their 15-13 record, braving the cold in a pair of sneakers, a hoodie and an unzipped black winter jacket. “I don’t even have boots,” he said.
Freshman Andrew Selover, a Gate E tenant who traveled to Syracuse’s road game at Georgetown last December, came more prepared. Selover and his tentmates Bryce Lander and Vaughn Reardon ran a power cable into their tent and connected a small TV. Lander played Fortnite between college basketball games. The group watched Gonzaga vs. San Francisco on Friday and Iowa vs. Nebraska on Saturday.
“I’m confident that if something is going to happen, this is the time for a little spark,” Lander said about Syracuse’s upcoming matchup. “A little bright spot in a dark season.”
Reardon said his back hurt Friday after sleeping on the concrete. Snow greeted them that morning, as did SU’s snow removal shovel team around 7 a.m.
“It was like they were trying to remove all of the concrete and bring back the dirt from 100 years ago,” Reardon said about the early shovel sounds.
Only a few snowflakes wandered down to where the tents were set up. The blue snow salt coated the stairs and dried white on the grey concrete.
But with no shovel crews to disturb them, the nights buzzed with excitement. While the tv glared, the crew sang along to Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” on Saturday night.
“It’s a party out here,” Selover said with a smile. “You only get to do this once a year. (We) had to do it.”
Back at Gate D, San Diego, California, native Maya Vidal thought about camping trips she’s completed before. The slabbed concrete walls contrasted the valleys of Yellowstone, where she’s camped four times. Some 10 feet from where she slept, the Carrier Dome warmed to 85 degrees, preventing snow from piling on the roof.
Vidal wore three pairs of socks, preparing for the coldest camping night of her life. “I’ve never felt winds like this,” she said.
Jim Boeheim and SU assistant Allen Griffin visited the campers before Syracuse’s practice on Friday. Boeheim thanked his citizens for their support throughout the season.
The Orange is 7-0 when supported by Syracuse students in the Carrier Dome this season. They last beat Duke at home in February 2017 and lost to Duke 79-59 earlier this year at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“The students make this team,” “Otto’s Army’s” Fried said about Syracuse’s 7-0 record with students in attendance. “That’s no coincidence.”