THE CARRIER DOME
Home of the Preseason No. 9 Syracuse University Orange
Location: Syracuse, NY
Our ten-day tour of the Preseason Top 10 continues at the Carrier Dome, the only on-campus dome in the country and, with a capacity of well over 30,000, the nation’s largest basketball venue. Like the O’Dome that we looked at yesterday, the Carrier Dome is home to several Orange sports teams – men’s and women’s basketball, lacrosse, football and regularly hosts state high school events and major music concerts throughout the year.
The Carrier Dome just celebrated its 25th anniversary, having opened for the 1980 season. It was built on the site of the venerable Archibald Stadium, a 26,000-seat outdoor football stadium that had occupied the campus’ west side since the beginning of the 20th Century. While the football team has always played on this site, prior to the construction of the Carrier Dome, the SU basketball teams played at Manley Field House on Syracuse’s South Campus, a few miles away. The 9,500-seat Manley Field House now functions as a practice space for SU sports within a series of other practice fields and a new Football Operations Building. Naming rights were bought by a $2.5 million gift from the Carrier Corporation, even though the Dome is not equipped with any air conditioning capabilities.
The Carrier Dome is unique among college basketball facilities in that it shares its space with the football team. Football games use the entirety of the space, with a capacity of 50,000. For basketball games, a court is laid in the football field end zone and temporary bleachers are installed somewhere around the 50-yard line, essentially cutting the Dome space in half. Although crowds of well over 30,000 regularly pack into the Carrier Dome for a men’s basketball game, the reality of this unique configuration is that the game is always being played in a half-filled stadium. Having watched a few basketball games while a graduate student at the Syracuse School of Architecture, the atmosphere is very good for a game and surprisingly intimate, despite the cavernous setting.
The Carrier Dome roof consists of two separate layers of Teflon-coated, fiberglass fabric divided into 64 panels all held together by a network of bridge cables that span the outer ring of the concrete building proper and also support the Dome’s lighting and sound equipment. The roof is inflated by sixteen, five-foot diameter fans located in mechanical rooms to the north and south of the dome. Hot air can be forced between the two layers of the roof to melt the large snow loads Syracuse receives every winter. Anyone visiting the building feels the drastic change in air pressure as you are swept through the revolving doors at the Dome’s entrances. The visual effect of the translucent roof is quite bright and watching a game under natural lighting is a great way to spend a cold winter afternoon in Syracuse .
The source of the nickname “the Loud House” is evident to anyone attending a game at the Carrier Dome. Although, the noise generated by the crowd is less of a roar and more of a rattle, due largely to the predominance of aluminum bleacher seating throughout. Noise bounces off the metal seats, concrete structure and fabric roof and culminates in a head rattling crescendo unique to sporting venues.
Like Florida’s O’Connell Center, the Carrier Dome is very much a no-frills venue whose construction and management are the result of the practical need to create as flexible a venue as possible, to be used by as many people as possible. This admirable design goal almost overcomes how dreadful the Dome looks and functions on its exterior. To say it turns its back on the surrounding campus and city setting would be an understatement. Its concrete structure crashes down on the picturesque campus and the effect is a totally barren exterior, almost as cold as a Syracuse night. It is too bad that the need to create a low-frills venue trumped any effort to integrate what is potentially a dynamic, multipurpose venue, which benefits the University and region in so many ways.