Syracuse Orange fans can return to Dome Sweet Dome this Saturday, when SU football hosts Colgate in the 2023 season opener. And based off some comments from Athletics’ leadership, it will be the last football opener before several additional upgrades are completed.
Director of Athletics John Wildhack, Chief Facilities Officer Pete Sala, JMA Chief Operating Officer Andy Adams, and SU Professor & SIDEARM Sports founder Jeff Rubin held a conference inside the Dome to discuss the ongoing project’s progress.
Increased Comfort, Decreased Capacity
By all accounts, this will be the final year of bleachers inside the Dome, as the entire facility is set to have its current seating removed and replaced with blue chairbacks. The target date for this change is fall kickoff 2024, with the process beginning in April.
Between the wider seats and expanded aisles in accordance with ADA compliance, the Dome’s overall capacity will decrease to between 42,000-43,000, per Sala. That reduction is along the same lines as North Carolina’s renovation of Kenan Stadium in 2018, which also replaced most bleachers (minus their student section) and cut capacity by around 10,000.
The Dome’s current capacity is 49,057, 11th among ACC stadiums and ahead of Boston College, Duke, and Wake Forest. The projected range would drop it to 12th behind BC.
Syracuse football had sellouts against NC State (49,705) and Notre Dame (49,861) last season, with an average attendance of around 40,800. This year’s Homecoming game against Clemson is likely the last chance to break that mark one final time.
We’re not yet sure how this will affect basketball capacity.
Still Connecting the Connections
The biggest addition for this fall was supposed to be JMA’s 5G wireless technology. It turns out that it won’t be ready for the start of the season - and depending on who your wireless provider is, you could be waiting even longer.
Verizon looks to be the first service online, sometime during the middle of October. AT&T is looking at November, and T-Mobile likely won’t be complete with their work until around the new year.
Adams said that all appropriate JMA equipment is in place, and the delay is due to the other parties still having to install their own tech.
It’s extremely disappointing news, especially with the frontloaded home schedule which includes the guaranteed sell-out against Clemson. The Dome’s historically-bad Internet is seconded only by the longtime punchline of Carrier not actually having their own products in the building named after them. At least for the short-term, some similar naming jokes with JMA aren’t going anywhere.
The Miron Victory Court, being constructed in the space between the Dome and the Barnes Center, is also a little behind schedule. The connection to the Arch was supposed to be complete before the 2024 football season, but Sala said he does not anticipate it to be ready by then. The new timeline is for later in the fall, which ideally would be before basketball returns. Fans will not be able to walk along the west side of the Dome exterior as that construction continues.
What’s Ready Right Now?
The Kuhn Gameday Lounge, located underneath the student section, will be open to suite holders and from pregame through halftime. The space’s biggest feature is new glass windows that allow those inside to watch the Orange take the field through the tunnel. The space will continue to double as the postgame press conference location.
General improvements include the widening of the first row in each 100-level section, along with designated spaces for handicap access.
Wildhack also said that SU is looking to update some of its other facilities. Work on the SU Softball Stadium will begin this fall, and after this season, a new floor and bleachers will be installed inside the Women’s Building (Volleyball). Options are also being considered for the Tennity Ice Pavillion, which did receive a minor videoboard addition in 2022.