Syracuse Orange fans are patiently waiting to hear details about the proposed Carrier Dome renovations. We’ve seen some renderings of what the Dome could like, and heard a few of the proposed upgrades to the facility. Last week the Daily Orange ran a story about concerns among Syracuse faculty members about the cost of these renovations. This week, Syracuse University held an update on the campus framework and according to Chris Carlson from Syracuse.com, few details were shared about the Dome renovation.
I’m not here to debate the merits of spending $200 million on the Dome as opposed to other areas of SU. What I am here to say is that when SU decides what to do with the Carrier Dome, it must avoid some of the short-sighted facilities fixes made recently. It might cost more, it might take more time to complete the renovations, and it might even disrupt some of the Orange sports, but this decision must be made with a long-range view in mind. From these comments in Carlson’s story it sounds like SU’s VP Pete Sala is doing just that
"The Dome is a big, big project," Sala said. "We're looking at all the options, trying to look thoroughly at each option. It's really important for us to enhance the fan experience and the student day-to-day activities that we want to happen in the future. ... We're trying to align that project with the rest of the campus framework. Again, it's not something we're taking lightly. There's a lot of planning that needs to go into place."
This is very good news because some of the previous facilities renovations haven’t followed that same approach.
Manley Field House was originally built as an indoor practice space for the football program, but it became better known as the home for Syracuse basketball until the Dome was built. In 2010, it was renovated to return to its roots as a practice home for several Syracuse sports, but primarily for football (rumors are that this was done because Doug Marrone was promised an indoor facility when he was hired). To accomplish this, several other teams were impacted:
- Women’s basketball moved to the Melo Center/Dome, which was certainly a benefit to the program.
- Volleyball had to make the Women’s Building their home, which required Syracuse to make updates to that facility. The Campus Framework plan shows the Women’s Building being renovated/removed, but that’s far enough down the road that it’s tough to know the impact.
- Lacrosse and soccer gained an additional indoor training space, which was key during basketball season. When the teams couldn’t use the Dome, they had the ability to practice without dealing with the Syracuse winter weather.
- Track and Field was the group hit hardest. The Manley renovations, removed all areas for field events so Syracuse lost their multi-events coach, and the team was left with an odd-shaped 3-lane track that doesn’t address the needs of a P5 program.
After the Ensley Athletic Center was completed in 2015, football, lacrosse, and soccer moved to the newer, bigger space. The renovated Manley is now used by track, softball, and athletes doing individual work on the turf field. So for five years of use, Syracuse now has a facility which doesn’t work too well for the athletes, and leaves the future of the space in question.
Speaking of the Ensley Center... Syracuse finally did what it should have done in 2010 in building a full-size practice field for football, lacrosse, and soccer. Yet once again the end result is not going to provide long-term solutions.
Other P5 schools who have recently built these IPFs have done a better job of connecting them with existing facilities, adding coaches offices, etc. so the team is concentrated in one place. This is what Syracuse did correctly with the Melo Center.
I’d anticipate that it will be less than five years before we hear that Syracuse is working to move all of football’s operations to the Ensley Center. With better long-term planning, this could have been done from the start and the trickle down would have allowed SU Athletics to upgrade locker rooms, training facilities, and academic space for all sports.
The future of Syracuse University obviously goes beyond sports. Yet, we must acknowledge that competing at the Division I level is important to the University. Fixing the Dome roof might only be the cheapest option, but not addressing larger issues now could cost Syracuse more in the long-run.
This is an opportunity to develop a facility which can provide an improved fan experience and revenue source. It’s not an easy decision, which is why patience should be given. The opportunity is there and it’s time for Syracuse to take the risk and get this Dome renovation done in a way that prepares the facility for the long-term future. It’s a decision that has the potential to provide dividends to athletics, academics, and the greater Syracuse community. What do you think?