clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

TNIAAM Round Table: Thoughts On The Possibility Of A New Syracuse Arena

Hear that? Somebody mentioned something about a new arena in Syracuse and CRUSHING the Carrier Dome and War Memorial. What does that mean? It is time for a TNIAAM round table discussion.


Once in awhile a column or story comes along and the TNIAAM contributors e-mail thread explodes. When this happens we think of doing just one thing -- a round table discussion using this handy thing called the Internet.

The topic today? The possibility of a new arena is Syracuse, which was brought up by columnist Sean Kirst, who wrote about the need for one on Tuesday. Here's a bit of what Kirst had to say about the Carrier Dome:

It's about time we start talking about our plans for the next major Syracuse arena.

It's closing in on 33 years since the opening of Syracuse University's Carrier Dome, built in a Spartan and efficient fashion with the help of millions in state money. The dome has been a spectacular success. It accomplished its primary mission - allowing Syracuse University to maintain a competitive Division I football team - and it had an especially powerful unintended consequence:

Through the combination of tens of thousands of seats, civic passion and the birth of the Big East Conference, SU basketball blossomed into one of the great programs in the nation.

Kirst also mentioned the 62-year-old War Memorial, which is set to host Game 6 of the Calder Cup, and its limitations. The solution to both problems: a brand spanking new arena that can hold both hockey and basketball events.

Now, speculation of brand new things excites people, especially rabid fans like the ones who follow Syracuse basketball. So, we decided to put some level headedness into this discussion and get the thoughts of the TNIAAM contributors.

First topic: Is this a good or bad idea?

Sean Keeley: I'm intrigued enough to want to see further exploration so I'll say good idea, though I'm still not 100% sure Syracuse University needs to "partner" with Syracuse, NY on an arena. The Dome's day are probably more numbered than people think (33 years old is very old for arenas these days) and I bet DOC Gross would love to get out of that in-perpituity naming deal with Carrier and get a big fat check for a new one (Hi Key Bank!).

The big issue facing a Dome replacement is that you're probably going to have to build two seperate buildings, one state-of-the-art football stadium and one top-notch basketball arena. Partnering with the city to build a great basketball/hockey arena probably relieves some of the financial problems and headaches that come along with it. And it frees SU up to knock down the Carrier Dome and build an outdoor stadium (yeah I said it) out of the ashes.

An arena that's capable of hosting basketball, lacrosse & hockey would also open up opportunities for SU, namely make a huge push to growing our women's hockey program and starting a men's one. So long as it can seat upwards of 25-28K, at least. We've got attendance numbers to hit.

Plus, since it would be an off-campus arena, we could still serve beer during games. That would be a deal-breaker.

Jared Smith: I am sure the blue hairs of the Syracuse fan base will not be happy about the possibility of this (it maybe just enough for Jim Boeheim to retire #sarcasm), as there has been a lot of tradition made in the Carrier Dome and the War Memorial but the Dome's days are nearly numbered.

Sure, it is great to pack 30,000-plus in there for basketball games once, maybe two to three, times per year, but lets not fool ourselves. There are not many good seats in the Dome after 25,000-plus and for the smaller games the place looks like a ghost town (sounds like one too).

Personally, I prefer small, PACKED arenas with a passionate fan base. Go around the NBA and NHL, those arena may not have that college look, but sure feel like it when one is packed and everyone is into it.

Plus, don't get me started on how terrible the media set up is at the Carrier Dome for basketball. It is by far the worst in the country and is something that will need to be addressed as the program gets better and the coverage gets bigger.

Dan Lyons: I see both sides of this, and would lean towards 'good idea' depending on where this building would be located and how much ownership SU would have over it. The Carrier Dome has seen better days (although Dr. Gross and company have done a great job or revitalizing it a bit in recent years), and I expect that we'll at least know what the future holds for Syracuse athletics in terms of a stadium within the next ten years, if not sooner.

One of the great things about the Dome is it's location on campus, and how it has become such a huge asset for the university for things like graduation, Relay for Life, the MLK Dinner, and everything else that's held there.

Also, being able to roll out of bed and walk right to the Dome for a noon game is really nice. I new arena downtown would be inherently disconnected from the university, which would be a tough sell for me. If we can keep it on the hill, and it leads to a hockey team for Syracuse, that would be ideal.

Chris Daughtrey: It's hard to call any plans to upgrade from the 30+ year old Carrier Dome, and the even older War Memorial, a bad idea. Despite what people like StrawHatGuy might think, nostalgia and intrinsic value do not directly correlate to actual value. Syracuse basketball is poised to cement its place among the college elite. An arena fitted more to the dimensions of the game might help push the program over the edge.

Such an arena would be great for the downtown area and the Crunch, but also as a potential home for an NBDL franchise. I don't know about anyone else, but I could see the old Syracuse Nationals coming back as a Philadelphia 76ers D-League affiliate. Who in Syracuse wouldn't support that?

Andrew Pregler: Although I think it's a great idea for the city of Syracuse. I think it's a bad idea for Syracuse University.

A combined arena would allow for more up to date facilitates for all sports but the accessibility of the Carrier Dome is why the building still stands. With all of the events that the University holds there, from HS championships to campus visitations to convocations and graduations, moving to a probable off campus location would suddenly change the entire way the University and Athletic Department operate.

For that reason alone, I don't think any new facility combined with the city will be built unless it is on Syracuse's campus and the University loans out the new area to the Crunch.

John Cassillo: Personally think that most arenas designed for professional sports (outside of probably MSG) lack the intimacy of a college venue, so right off the bat, you're operating at a loss compared to the current situation for basketball. Plus, anywhere off-campus automatically makes things more difficult. SU's student fan base is fickle (sorry, guys!) and can become easily disinterested.

An on-campus arena is what keeps them showing up to games. At the same time, the Dome does have a shelf life, and it is decidedly not "forever." Improvements would cost too much to make it worth it, and there's no way you can hold three consecutive sports seasons there, while also maintaining an operating quad while doing renovations (or at least I'd think that's the case)

Topic two: If built, what should the new arena have?

Sean Keeley: Jumbotrons! Everything else is just filler.

Jared Smith: A good press box. It doesn't even to need to be great just good. I am telling you, that would go a long way in helping Syracuse University athletics build up there PR with the national media. Nobody wants to cover a SU game unless its the last home game against Georgetown or against Louisville. (And we know how many more of those games there will be.)

Chris Daughtrey: Since the main gripe about the Dome is that there's no AC, I suppose a new arena should have that. And real seats. Aluminum and concrete benches are so '80's.

What I will say is that they should avoid going full-on corporate if they can manage it. No McDonald's, no Macaroni Grill, no Nathan's. Give whatever restaurant space there will be to locally and regionally based eateries. Get a Tully's in there, a Dinosaur BBQ, Hoffman's sausages. CNYers have a tremendous amount of pride and will respond very well so seeing local brands represented. Also, there needs to be some sort of sports museum, covering not just SU, but the entire sports history of the City of Syracuse from the Nationals to the Orange(men) to the Crunch to the Skychiefs.

Dan Lyons: Ideally, if we have separate buildings for football/basketball, we can still find a way to keep control of the giant crowds that the Dome allows for. I'm not sure how this would work out in a 'basketball only' or basketball/hockey arena, but I think the 30-thousand plus fans are a huge selling point, and I'd hate to lose that.

Andrew Pregler: A 3x larger than life anamatronic Otto. Just because.

John Cassillo: If we're going that route, obviously it all starts with direct, student-only transportation from campus to the arena. Can't lose student support for SU athletics or else they're toast (see: football during the Gerg era).

How much would you miss the Carrier Dome?

Sean Keeley: I remember walking into the Carrier Dome on my first visit to SU and being awed by it and I have countless memories of watching football, basketball and lacrosse games there, so there is a lot of sentimental value. That said, I've always had a romantic idea about an outdoor football stadium and I'm willing to bet brand new facilities would go a long way in the recruiting game for every sport.

Jared Smith: From my perspective, not one bit. I can say this because: 1) I don't live in Syracuse or attended Syracuse University, so my attachment to it isn't in my blood; and 2) I think the city of Syracuse has gotten all it can get from it.

Honestly ask yourself this question: How many more NCAA record breaking games can you have before you've reached the tipping point to where it is no longer a thing? (I think the Dome actually might be there after last year's Georgetown game.)

Once you've gotten all you can get out of something that's as old as the Carrier Dome, it is time to move on.

Dan Lyons: A lot. A ton of my favorite memories from school took place in the Dome. It will probably be similar to how I feel when I go to Citi Field now as a Mets fan. It's an amazing facility and it was entirely necessary, but it doesn't have the same charm or nostalgia as Shea did, even though Shea was incredibly outdated by the time it saw it's last game.

Chris Daughtrey: How much would I miss the Dome? Let me ruminate. I have family that lives on Syracuse's south side. Garfield Avenue, for those familiar with the area. You can see their house as you drive down 81, just after you pass by the Carrier Dome. When I was eight or so, I spent a couple weeks with them and, in between playing video games and watching the police activity down the street, my cousin took me to the Carrier Dome. I was hooked.

From that point on, I was a die hard. When I was looking at colleges, Syracuse was the only place I applied. All of my best college memories involve the Dome in some way; waiting outside in the cold before games, rushing the court three times during the Pitt game in 2003, watching the title game with 10,000 of my closest friends in orange. I'm all for upgrading but, for me, there will never be a place like the Dome.

Andrew Pregler: I would miss the Carrier Dome. From the dumb Dome Stomps that no one really does to the Orange glow, the Carrier Dome is as much associated with Syracuse as Jim Boeheim. Yeah, I hated sweating my balls off during the Georgetown game, but no other arena will have all of those crazy memories that make playing at the Dome so difficult for opponents and special for the Orange.

John Cassillo: Like anyone else who's attended SU since the Dome was built, I'd miss it a lot. Too many great moments in that building not to miss it. It's become synonymous with the basketball team, and that notion would be tough to shake, regardless of how nice any new venue is. Knowing the university though, they'd capitalize on that nostalgia by selling us all pieces of the concrete and individual seats for a "low, low price" of hundreds of dollars each.

Final thoughts...

Sean Keeley: If the only reasons you want to keep the Carrier Dome is because that's all you've ever known about Syracuse football & basketball, remember, that's how people felt about Archbold Stadium and Manley Field House one time. I'm willing to bet they got over it.

Jared Smith: I am pretty sure I came out of this round table sounding like a dick. I guess, somebody had to. But the fact is, there needs to be serious talks about replacing the Carrier Dome, and I think there has been; which is fantastic.

Dan Lyons: I know location is a huge debate every time a new stadium comes up, and I've probably said it before, but finding a way to put it on Skytop is clearly the best option to me. We already struggle to draw student attendance for football, think about how much worse it would be if they had to trek over to the fairgrounds or somewhere similar. Skytop has a ton of room for parking, it could help rejuvenate the tailgating scene, and still be close enough to campus (technically on campus, I guess) for people to feel like they're still at SU. It won't have the quad or Marshall Street right down the hill, but I don't see any way that a new arena is put up where the Dome is and where Archbold was.

Also, if we do a dual-sport set-up again, a retractable roof would be pretty sweet. And find a way to make the sightlines good for basketball, magical Syracuse architects.

Chris Daughtrey: Whatever they do, those on charge of this project need to make sure that the stadium is still easily accessible to students, at least for SU games. One of the best parts of the Dome was being able to get to it within 5 minutes from anywhere on campus. Even if physical proximity to the campus isn't possible, the powers that be need to make sure that whatever shuttle system they set up to get the butts to the seats puts priority on students. Along the same lines, put the student section where it belongs; lower level along the sideline. I get that donors and sponsors pay big bucks for good seats. But SU is a school. The students should be put first in all aspects.

Andrew Pregler: People know Dr. Gross doesn't like the Carrier Dome. It's not new enough, it's not modern enough, hell it can't even support wifi during a basketball game for the media. But that doesn't mean it needs to go.

John Cassillo: Yes, the Dome should be replaced, but not by something off-campus. I know CNY residents consider SU "their" team, while students consider it "theirs," but the only way people can have it both ways is on campus. Moving them elsewhere makes them the city of Syracuse's team, which is not an ideal scenario for a freezing cold, slightly downtrodden metro area whose lifeblood is basically the university, Crouse hospital and Wegmans. Don't replace the Dome unless you have to, but do move the football team outside. We'd be much better-served by a 40,000-seat outdoor stadium on South Campus that was consistently filled to capacity. Plus, better tailgate culture.

Now, your thoughts? Share them below in the comments section.