One of the more romantic sights for Syracuse University fans or students is when you drive along I-81 coming in from the East and the city suddenly greets you as you nestle yourself in the hills of Central New York. As you look over the city, you see the white puffed roof of the Carrier Dome and your day of football (or basketball) fun awaits.
The Carrier Dome opened its doors for the first time on September 20, 1980 and has remained the largest Domed stadium in the Northeast. An official listed capacity of 49,262 makes it one of the larger on-campus facilities in the nation (the largest for basketball) and plays host to a variety of events for the University. Lacrosse, basketball, high school sports, convocations, volleyball, and even softball events have been hosted on the floor of the Dome.
Football at Syracuse has been very hit or miss. Historically, they have one of the most successful teams in the country due in large part to great success early off in program history. Their lone championship came in 1959 with Ernie Davis at running back, one of the three famed backs to wear the number 44. (The other two: Jim Brown and current Special Assistant to the Athletic Director Floyd Little.)
After a dry period, there was success under Don MacPherson and Paul Pasqualoni that saw several huge names play for the Orange including Donovan McNabb, Marvin Harrison, and Dwight Freeney. Greg Robinson’s time at coach killed all of this momentum and thus a lot of the Dome’s luster as games were rarely filled. The program has begun a revival under Doug Marrone and current (2013) coach Scott Shafer.
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The Carrier Dome doesn't offer too much from the norm in terms of stadium food. You've got your standard Hoffman's hot dogs (affectionately called Dome Dogs), sausage, pizza, popcorn, pretzels, nachos, and sodas. They've added some new twists such as ice cream sandwiches and pulled pork sandwiches to expand the menu. However, the big plus is that the Carrier Dome is one of the few only on-campus facilities to serve alcoholic beverages, so beer is available at all stands. Combine this with the cheap prices (beer included) and the food and beverages at the Dome are more than satisfactory.
The Carrier Dome rarely sells out unless there is a marquee opponent coming to town. Attendance usually hovers around 40,000 for games with the student section being the most audible section in the stadium. The Dome installed new ribbon boards and scoreboards in 2012 that have allowed for new in-game experiences for fans. You can see your tweets and foursquare check-ins along with football stats.
Syracuse has joined the rankings of teams with intro/hype videos and a very loud train whistle that is played after touchdowns. All and all, it looks and feels like a collegiate football game, but the empty seats and lack of noise throughout the game are hard to ignore, and detract from the overall atmosphere.
I'm a big fan of on-campus stadiums, especially with how Syracuse's campus is set up. Near the Carrier Dome is Marshall Street, featuring all of the bars and restaurants kept in business by the students of Syracuse. You have your chain restaurants like Jimmy John's, Chipotle, Dunkin' Donuts, and Starbucks, but the good stuff is in the local restaurants.
Varsity is the go-to football hangout. It features cheap pizza and a special postgame banner flip if the Orange wins.
Acropolis is another pizza place if Varsity is predictably packed. Faegan's is your best bet to grab a drink and find a sit down meal. If you're willing to go to a "college bar," then venture down to Chuck's. Finally, the best food in Syracuse is at Dinosaur Barbeque in downtown. There are always waits but it has a great bar and amazing ribs.
The crowd size for football does leave something to be desired. The fans at the Dome are knowledgeable about the Orange and still shudder at the mention of Greg Robinson. The student section is the only group consistently doing any cheering, but is rarely full. Overall, the fans that make an effort to come to the games are a great time to chat with and you'll make friends in your section fairly easily.
Coming from I-81, there are signs everywhere indicated Dome Parking. The Carrier Dome is found near campus in lots, garages and street parking. The most inconvenient aspect is parking at Manley Field House or at the Skytop lots. These lots are on Syracuse-owned land but not on the main campus and require a bus ride pre and post game to and from the Dome. This system is fine pregame but postgame can get crazy as 40,000+ fans are all headed in the same place.
Tickets for Syracuse football games are relatively cheap, even day of game at face value. All of the seats offer a good view of the field. With the cheap price of food, variety of options of food outside of the Dome, and the tailgating options, there are plenty of ways to have a full day of football fun.
Before every game, the Quad turns into a giant tailgate/pregame party. It features bounce houses for kids, picnics, concession stands, live radio shows, souvenir trucks, and the marching band takes over the area with their performances of songs you'll hear inside of the Dome as well. It's a great atmosphere, as the band will then march to the stadium with most of the fans following into the Dome.
The Carrier Dome is definitely one of the more unique venues in the country. While most of the Dome's reputation comes from basketball (and deservedly so) football games are a great time as well. With the program on the rise, swinging up for a good game is a must just to knock one of the more recognizable stadiums off your list.
While driving on I-81 north on the road to Syracuse, you eventually go around a bend and over a hill and suddenly the city of Syracuse greets your eye for the first time. And during that first glimpse of the Salt City, the Carrier Dome emerges from the hills of Onondaga County, towering above the city on the Syracuse University hill. It's a welcomed site for alumni and diehard fans as in a few short miles you'll be exiting I-81 to find a parking spot around campus and begin a day of tailgating and football.
On this crisp October Saturday morning, alumni steadily crowded the campus and the surrounding area for Homecoming weekend. Alumni quickly pack the quad and Marshall Street, a street right off campus containing a variety of restaurants, bars, and apparel shops. On M-Street, as students affectionately call the strip, some soon-to-be Carrier Dome patrons grab a last pregame beer at one of the several bars; others find comfort in a slice of Varsity Pizza. The quad becomes one large "pregame party" as the school calls it. There, advertisers hand out every conceivable orange colored knick-knack that might make your game experience better. Discarded orange colored seat cushions, pom-poms, and roll-up banners will litter the Dome and the quad following the game.
Before every game, the Pride of the Orange Marching Band performs on the steps of Hendricks Chapel just a few feet away from the closest entrance of the Carrier Dome. When the band is done, it's time to get into the Carrier Dome to enjoy the game.
The quality of the product inside the Carrier Dome can vary dramatically. During the Greg Robinson era, the football was terrible, students were non-existent, and the crowd was quite complacent. Things have begun to change inside the Dome as the football team is getting better; the students are starting to show up; and the crowd finally provides a home-field advantage.
The Carrier Dome doesn't offer a lot of frills - but it can one of the most exciting venues in all of sports, especially for Big East basketball.
The food is standard fare with a couple minor exceptions. Parking is scattered around the hill - plentiful, but you need to be willing to walk a ways, take a shuttle, or arrive nice and early. The walk up the hill can be cold and miserable on snowy January evenings, but it is Syracuse.
A fun place - no bad seats in the house - and an entertaining and involved student crowd during the basketball season.
I did not enjoy my Carrier Dome experience. The dome is old and in need of some upgrades. Thankfully, according to the schools media relations director for athletics, the team is beginning to make some upgrades, especially to the concession areas. I am hopeful that this is improve my experience the next time I visit.
The fan base is there, and they show up and are loud if the team is doing well, but with the exception of last year (2010) the team has been down lately since McNabb played there, resulting in a lot of lack-luster crowds and a bad, stale atmosphere. They didn't even sell out for the game against old rival Penn State a few years ago.
The good news is tickets are cheap and usually easy to find, so the return on investment is good.
Be aware of where you park and allow plenty of time to ride the shuttle if it is one of the far lots.
Also, be sure to check out the Ernie Davis statue they put up a few years ago.
After going to games in Beaver Valley, this place was a little disappointing. The Carrier Dome is a very cool place but the fans just weren't as into the game as I'm used to seeing students. They weren't bad but not, well...rabid. The thing I liked best was the fact that the stadium is right on the campus. Lots of fun stuff for a young person to do. Plus I was staying at a frat house with a friend. I'm told it was quite a weekend.
Great place to watch a game, when the team is good. It gets really loud and there isn't a bad seat in the house. I like that you have to walk through campus to get to the stadium. Its a bit of a workout to get up the hill, but well worth it.
I think its the only on campus venue that serves beer. Dome beers are delicious.
As someone who hasn't been to a football game here in about a decade, my opinion is probably too dated to be useful. But that's ok; as an alum and a former season ticket holder, I wouldn't be able to be objective anyway! But I'll try my best...
"The Dome" might not quite be an iconic college football venue, but it's a well-known one at least. And frankly, considering its celebrity, you might be a little disappointed. Our football team is on an upswing, but we haven't been a power for a while. The seats are a little uncomfortable. Despite being named for an air conditioning company, there isn't any air conditioning in the dome. It can get very hot early in the season. Cuse fans aren't bad or fair-weather, but lots of us wish we were a little more passionate.
That said, The Dome is unique. Tickets are reasonably priced and the seats are good. For D1 football, it's a fairly small facility. You won't get this close to a storied program in many other places. Many of the parking lots require a shuttle, but once you're at the Dome, you're in the middle of campus and can even take a walk to downtown Syracuse.
Overall, it's not quite as special as I wish it were. And it's better for basketball.
Random tip: The air pressure is greater inside the stadium than outside. At a few sets of exit doors, you practically get blown outside. Once outside, jump up and down in between the concrete columns. It sounds likes like a light saber.
I've been to the Carrier Dome for Basketball but took my first trip for Football back in 2010. It was a big game too as Syracuse got a Saturday Night game against conference rival (at that time) U Conn. More than Pride was on the line for Cuse as with a win they would have clinched a share of the conference title.
Its hard to get a reserved spot right outside the Dome but there are a bunch of places to park around the stadium. I feel the Tailgate scene is a step below RU but does have a busy Downtown area that more than makes up for it.
It was a cold November day that thankfully wasn't an issue come game time. The crowd isnt as rowdy as they are during Basketball games but were still lively enough. Would like to go back to another Cuse Football game but it isn't at the top of my return list.
246 W Willow St
Syracuse, NY 13202
734 S Crouse Ave
Syracuse, NY 13210
167 Marshall St
Syracuse, NY 13210
727 S Crouse Ave
Syracuse, NY 13210
802 S Crouse Ave
Syracuse, NY 13210
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