The Stadium Project: Carrier Dome begins transition

Looking forward to what's next with the Carrier Dome renovations

What the changes to the Dome mean for the class of 2020 as well as for SU Athletics.
Published: March 1, 2020 | Updated: March 2nd, 2020 at 9:53 pm
Cranes outside the Carrier Dome on Sunday March 1, 2020, during the last live event for the roof and renovation projects.
Cranes tower over the Carrier Dome on Sunday prior to Syracuse women's basketball game, which is the last event in the stadium for the next six months.

On March 1, following the Syracuse women’s basketball team’s 4 p.m. contest against Boston College, the Carrier Dome officially closed its doors – at least for the next few months.

In order to ensure the final improvements to the roof of the stadium are finished by the first home football game on Sept. 19, SU Athletics will be vacating the Carrier Dome for the remainder of the spring sports season. This announcement made back in April 2019 by Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack is a shift from the original timeline, which would’ve allowed events to continue through May.

Instead, many games and events will have to take place elsewhere. That includes Block Party, the annual end-of-the-school-year concert that is usually set in the Carrier Dome. University Union, the official programming board of Syracuse University, declined to release any details about the location of Block Party this year. It’ll also be the first time in nearly 40 years that the Syracuse University Commencement is not held in the Carrier Dome as the ceremony has occurred in the stadium ever since it opened on Sept. 20, 1980.

“It’s very disappointing to know that the place that makes this school so unique is where an instilled tradition will be broken for this year,” said Jessica Mannetta, an engineering and computer science senior. “It feels like we’ve been cheated out of an experience that makes going here for four years so special.”

Syracuse’s different schools will hold their individual events at various places on and around campus, with the majority of undergraduate convocations planned to be held at Manley Field House. The class-wide commencement will be held on the Shaw Quadrangle. It’s the first time the graduation ceremony will be outdoors since 1972, when it was held at Archbold Stadium.

The average high temperature in Syracuse on May 10, the day of graduation, is 67 degrees, while the average low is 45 degrees. Last year on May 10, there was a high of 72 degrees but SU received 0.67 inches of rain.

“One thing I’ve learned over my four years here is that you can’t predict Syracuse weather,” said Matthew Savignano, a senior Management major at SU. “You always have to be prepared for that random cold May day here.”

How SU Athletics will be affected

The sports most impacted by the Dome’s closing are men’s and women’s lacrosse.

The women’s team, which is currently 6-1 and ranked No. 4 in the country by Inside Lacrosse, played its last game in the Dome on Feb. 24, a 21-4 win over Colgate. Of their 10 remaining games, just one will be played in Syracuse, on April 11 at Christian Brothers Academy against North Carolina. Should SU reach the NCAA Tournament and receive a top-eight seed, they will host the first two rounds and be forced to play outside, like they did last year at the SU Soccer Stadium.

The men’s lacrosse team, which is currently 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country by Inside Lacrosse, played its last game in the Dome on Feb. 28. The Orange took down Hobart, 21-13. Two of their remaining eight games are at home, on March 28 against Notre Dame and April 11 versus North Carolina, and both will take place at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. On the men’s side, just the first round of the NCAA tournament is hosted by a top-eight seed.

The men’s basketball team played its final game in the Carrier Dome this season on Feb. 29, a 92-79 loss to North Carolina. Their remaining two regular-season games are both away, so the only chance of another home game would be if they receive an invitation to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). In that case, the higher-seeded team hosts the first two rounds, but due to the renovations, Syracuse would most likely be forced to play on the road no matter what.

Finally, the women’s basketball team earned the honor of playing the last game in the Carrier Dome this season, an 88-81 loss to Boston College on March 1. If the Orange receives a bid to the NCAA tournament and is a top-4 seed in their region, they’ll host the first two rounds of the tournament, just as they did last season.

What we know about the plans for the Carrier Dome:

The new roof, which will be fixed and propped up by a ring of supports as opposed to the air-supported inflatable roof that’s currently atop the stadium, is scheduled to be finished by fall 2020 along with a four-sided, vertically-hung scoreboard, new sound and lighting systems, and improved accessibility and Wi-Fi.

A lifespan of 40 years is expected for the new roof, which will involve lower maintenance costs than its predecessor. Gone will be the air-lock system that the Dome currently has, as well as any issues with snow removal. While the white “bubble” look will remain, it’ll be surrounded by steel supports.

“The old air-inflated roof is definitely in need of replacement and that whole concept can collapse,” said Mark Johnson, a senior engineering and computer science major. “The new roof will look modern with a much safer roof option.”

The first stage of improvements is expected to be finished by fall 2020 and more specifically by Sept. 19, when Syracuse hosts Colgate in its first home game of the season and the first SU athletics event in six months. The second round of renovations will take place over the course of the following two years, and include the installation of air conditioning, new accessible restrooms, and new concessions space.

Air conditioning was the top desire of students polled in The NewsHouse’s survey of 122 students for the Dome 35 project four years ago. In second place was “more comfortable seats”, which may be another addition during the renovations down the line.

In a construction update sent on Feb. 28, SU Vice President and Chief Campus Facilities Officer Pete Sala explained that the crown truss installation of the roof is ongoing. Additionally, Sala wrote that after the women’s basketball game on Sunday, the Dome will be turned over to the project team and will be occupied 24 hours a day as a construction site in preparation for deflation and removal of the existing roof in mid to late March.

At the Senior Send-Off earlier in the day on Feb. 28, Sala told seniors that the class of 2020 will receive a piece of the old Carrier Dome roof as a token of remembrance.

“It’s pretty cool that we’re all going to receive a piece of the Dome roof,” Savignano said. “The class of 2020 has witnessed a lot of great games there and it’ll be a nice memory of the fun times we’ve had there.”

Dome 35

Look back at a special NewsHouse presentation in 2015 when the Carrier Dome was marking its 35th year as SU’s sports and entertainment venue.

Avatar for Eric Black

is a contributor to The NewsHouse.