When I enrolled at Syracuse, I knew that I was attending a basketball cathedral. That first basketball was something special as an “exhibition” game nabbed 9,000 in attendance. Since that time, I’ve seen some of the best basketball in the country and countless memories made in the Capital of College Basketball.
Nestled in the hills of Central New York, the Carrier Dome pops out of the landscape as you travel west on I-81. (Sorry for those traveling east, the view isn’t quite as spectacular.) At night, it’s lit up Orange as the home of one of the best basketball programs in the country routinely sees at least 25,000 flock through the doors for a basketball game. With crowds that have already set records at 35,012 (which should be broken when Duke comes to Syracuse on February 2, 2014), the Dome features one of the best atmospheres for any collegiate sporting event. Crowds flock to the Syracuse campus early to pregame at the local bars, in the parking lots and to explore the Dome’s pregame activities.
Since its opening in 1980, the Orange have played all time classics at the Dome named after the air conditioning company. (Ironically, the Dome does not have any air conditioning.) The season attendance figures almost always have the Orange right near the top and that doesn’t look to change as the Big East has been replaced by a just as interesting ACC with new rivalries to be born.
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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. The inconvenience is that the good food is on the other side of the dome from the court. However, the big plus is that the Carrier Dome is the only on campus facility 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.
There's a reason that the Carrier Dome has been called the Loud House. Every game starts the same way. Welcome of the Jungle blares and every fan stands and claps until the first basket by Syracuse is scored. From there, you've got the normal ebb and flow of a basketball game, but so much louder than many other venues. The Dome has added brand new HD video boards filled with video highlights and promos while the in game entertainment does not try too hard to take away from the game itself. A lot of the breaks are dedicated to the "Sour Citrus Society," the Syracuse pep band, cheerleaders or dancers.
As for the game action itself, things are a basketball fan's dream. In a November 2013 game against Indiana, three point specialist Trevor Cooney could not miss and after his third trifecta the Dome erupted to deafening levels. And that was "only" a crowd of 26,000. When the Dome reaches crowds of 30K+, it's downright crazy and you can feel the Dome shake. It's definitely a must see for college basketball fans, and the history just oozes out of the building.
I'm a big fan of on campus stadiums, especially with how Syracuse's campus is set up. Right near the Carrier Dome is Marshall Street, which features 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 and Acropolis are your pizza places to hit up while Faegan's is your best bet to grab a drink and sit down meal. If you really want the "college" feel, hit up Chuck's. It's the go to bar for SU students before, during and after the games.
Finally, the best food in Syracuse is at Dinosaur Barbeque in downtown. There are always waits, but it's got a great bar and amazing ribs. If you don't want to wait forever, hit up The Mission for excellent Mexican food.
When you've got 27K-32K crammed into the Dome for a game, you're going to meet a lot of different kinds of Syracuse basketball fans, from the passionate locals to the alums making a rare trek back. The student section is one of the largest in the country (routinely more show up to basketball games than football games) and are always rowdy. The lifelong fans can recall memories from seasons past and are willing to talk about all of the numbers hanging in the rafters. One of the coolest things is to look courtside and you'll routinely see alums of the program, from Pearl Washington to Carmelo Anthony taking in some action.
Coming from I-81, there are signs everywhere indicating Dome Parking. The Carrier Dome is found near campus and there are lots, garages, and street parking available. 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, and postgame is more manageable than football.
Tickets to get in the building can be really cheap for almost any game and if a non-marquee opponent is in town, decent seats can be scored for reasonable price as well. Combine that cheap food, tailgating experience and seeing a game at a college basketball landmark and the experience is much more reasonably priced than you'd expect.
There's a backcourt area in the opposite half of the football field not used, set up with different sponsor booths that would normally be on the quad. They also have a free throw shooting area for kids to benefit the Jim and Julie Boeheim Foundation.
Pregame you can walk right around the court and watch warmups as the ushers are all long timers who love sharing their knowledge of the team and the Dome. The Dome interior has been redone to add some more Orange to the already overwhelming amount the fans wear.
The Carrier Dome has a special feel to it that only a few stadia have. The atmosphere and the fans are guaranteed to make an unforgettable experience and more than likely make a top-five basketball memory. It's definitely a must visit place for sports fans.
In contrast to the football experience at the Carrier Dome, going to see a Syracuse Orange men's basketball game is a pretty remarkable experience. The Dome isn't flashy, but it offers a huge and enthusiastic crowd, a good selection of fairly priced food, and well"¦ you can drink in an on-campus stadium. So that's cool. After over three decades of the Jim Boeheim era and a fair amount of success, the Orange basketball team has become the de facto college basketball team to support in upstate New York. The fan base is one of the largest in the country, and during the long, quiet and dreary winters of Syracuse, an energizing and entertaining trip to the Dome really illustrates just why the Orange are so popular.
The Carrier Dome seats roughly 50,000 during football season, but for basketball the court is laid out at one end of the football field and bleachers are installed across the field, limiting capacity to about 33,000"¦ which is still a monstrous crowd for a basketball game.
The dome is an awesome home for an awesome team
Known as "the Loud House", the Carrier Dome is home to Syracuse football, basketball and lacrosse, in addition to the New York State Field Band Championship each year. Opened in 1980, the dome has seen plenty of great moments as Syracuse's basketball program has become one of the best teams in the country year in and year out. This can mainly be attributed to head coach Jim Boeheim.
The dome seats a whopping 33,000 fans for basketball, making for the largest on-campus basketball arena in the country. This huge home court advantage has propelled the Orange to great success in the Big East, winning 5 conference tournaments and 10 regular season titles all since 1980. They also won a national title in 2003. The dome is named for the Carrier air conditioning company, but ironically, the dome has no a/c. Obviously, this is not a big deal for basketball season.
The uniqueness of the dome makes for one of the best college basketball atmospheres in the nation.
I have yet to meet a Syracuse fan that actually attended the university.
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