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  • Writer's pictureLloyd Brown

JMA Wireless Dome – Syracuse Orange Football

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

JMA Wireless Dome 900 Irving Ave Syracuse, NY 13210

Year Opened: 1980

Capacity: 49,057


The High Wireless Dome

One of Syracuse, NY’s most recognized names changed after the 2021 college football season, as the Carrier Dome became the JMA Wireless Dome. The change in naming rights was part of a multiyear $118 million renovation of the building, which opened in 1980. The stadium remains the country’s largest domed stadium on a college campus, the largest domed stadium in the Northeastern United States, and the largest on-campus basketball arena with a capacity of 35,652 for roundball. The capacity of the JMA Wireless Dome for football is 49,207.

The renovations on the Dome literally start from the top down. The building’s original air-supported roof was replaced with a fixed roof supported by cables and a translucent material that will allow more light into the venue. The roof has a 40-year life span and will not require snow removal, as the original roof required. Air-supported roofs can collapse under the weight of heavy snow, as happened at Minnesota’s Metrodome Stadium. This is a much-needed change, as Syracuse can experience some intense winter storms.

Just below the roof is the Dome’s first center-hung football scoreboard/videoboard. The scoreboard measures 62 X 20 on each of its four sides. The scoreboard is a part of the Dome’s total updating of its electronics package, which includes two new videoboards at the end of the field, ribbon boards on the facing of the stadium’s upper decks, air conditioning, and the installation of Wi-Fi capability in the building. Sound and lighting systems received a much-needed updating as well.

Food & Beverage 4

The concessions area also received a great deal of attention during the renovation project. The individual stands were reconfigured to allow better flow along the concourse and more efficient and compact equipment was installed for better operations within the booths. Like most stadiums, the building converted to cashless purchases and the capability of receiving orders remotely via an app.

There are several brands of concessions available at the Dome. Each brand has multiple locations within the stadium. All stands offer Pepsi brand beverages ($5/20 oz) and water ($4.50). Dome Dogs offers hot dogs ($7), sausages ($5), soft pretzels ($6), nachos ($9.50), popcorn ($5) and candy ($4.25), and fries ($5). The ‘Cuse Chicken Express serves chicken tenders with fries ($13) and chicken sandwiches ($9). The Tomato Wheel is your best choice for pizza, including cheese ($6), and pepperoni ($6) options.

Alcoholic drinks are sold at separate stands from the general concessions. Their offerings include 16-ounce domestic beers (Bud Light, Coors Light, and Labatt Blue Light) for $10. 16-ounce Premium beers (Sam Adams, Michelob Light) are $12, and craft beers (Fiddlehead IPA, Meir’s Creek, Heritage Hill), are $14 for a 16-ounce can. Hard seltzers are $12, and wines are $9.

Rounding out your dining options are Perry’s Ice Cream and Salt City Popcorn. Salt City is a nickname for the city of Syracuse.

The Orange Team Store carries the widest selection of Syracuse Orange merchandise. It is located on the main concourse at aisle 107.

Atmosphere 5

Football Saturdays at Syracuse have a great deal of tradition and spectacle attached to them. These begin before you even enter the JMA Wireless Dome. The Syracuse campus is known for its spectacular fall foliage. Be sure to allow plenty of time to take in the colors before entering the building. Another pregame activity is the entertainment on the quad outside the building. The Syracuse Pride of the Orange Marching Band performs, the cheerleaders lead the cheers and there are appearances by Orange players of the past. There is also a Family Fun Zone, which opens three hours prior to kickoff. It includes music, games, face painting, and a team store.

The renovation project has greatly improved the atmosphere at Syracuse home games. The videoboard and the improved sound system make it much easier to stay connected with the important plays during the game. The translucent roof has brightened the interior of the building so that fans can see much better during the day games. The seating options have also come more diverse, as the seating bowl now includes 48,000 aluminum bleacher seats, 850 theatre seats, and 40 luxury suites.

The building has retained its nickname of the “Loud House,” a result of the domed roof that tends to amplify the noise level in the building. Syracuse fans use this to the home team’s advantage, as they can make it very difficult for the opposition to call plays. The student section of the stadium is known as both the “O-Zone” and “Otto’s Army” and is widely known for its decibel level.

After the Orange win a home game the band and Syracuse fans head over to Varsity Pizza, a longtime shop located just off campus for a victory celebration. Varsity Pizza has a tradition of hanging the opposing team’s pennant up prior to each game. If the Orange win the game, the pennant is then hung upside down as a sign of defeat for the visitors.

Neighborhood 4

The JMA Wireless Dome and the Syracuse University campus are in the University Hill neighborhood, which lies just east of Downtown Syracuse. Most of the main attractions in the area are in the downtown area. Two spots you will want to check out are the Erie Canal Museum and the Everson Art Museum.

The Armory District offers great shopping, nice restaurants, and a pleasant neighborhood to check out. After you have worked up an appetite, head over to Dinosaur BBQ. Although most people do not think of BBQ in upstate New York, Dinosaur BBQ is the exception to the rule. It has been featured on the Man versus Food television show several times.

Fans 5

In the past, it has been difficult to award a high score to the Orange’s football fans. First, the Orange are members of the ACC, which is primarily in the southeastern United States. This means that most of the teams that make up the Syracuse schedule are based several hundred, if not a thousand miles from the Syracuse campus, which is not near the Atlantic Coast. This makes it difficult for fans to travel to away games. Second, Syracuse has been seen as a basketball school for many years due to its regular appearances in March Madness.

There are a couple of fan traditions involving Syracuse football. The first involves ‘key” plays. The fans take out their keys and shake them loudly when the visiting team is facing a 3rd and long situation, or time is running out and they are behind. This makes it very hard for the opposition to communicate and can disrupt their playcalling. It can also result in motion penalties due to linemen being unable to hear the snap count. The second tradition takes place before the games begin and the fans are out on the Syracuse campus. It is considered good luck to make a pilgrimage to the statue of Orange football icon Ernie Davis and touch the statue.

Over the last few seasons, the Syracuse football program has made great strides, including becoming bowl eligible, with the fans playing a major role. The Loud House gets its high decibel readings through the combined efforts of its fans from the alumni and the student body, as well as the townspeople of Syracuse. Our ears are still ringing! As a result, we have raised our score for this section of the review over past years.

Access 3

The JMA Wireless Dome is easily accessible via Interstate 81 and the NY State Thruway.

The parking lots are some distance away from the JMA Wireless Dome, especially with the possibility of icy weather at some of the late-season games. Shuttle buses will bring fans from the parking lots to the Dome and return them after the game.

The JMA Wireless Dome has seven main entrances, and buses will drop fans at the gate designated on their ticket. This prevents concentrating too many people at one entrance and improves the circulation on the concourses.

Once inside the Dome, there are some major points of congestion involving the restrooms and the concessions areas. Most fans enter the JMA Wireless Dome at the 200-level of the stadium. This is the main concourse level, and it includes the restrooms and concession areas. The 200-level concourse also serves as the 300-level source for restrooms and concessions. The 300-level seats are connected to the 200-level concourse by sets of stairs every few aisles of the stadium. Even though the 300-level has the most seats of any level in the stadium, it does not have any service areas of its own. This results in very long lines and a great deal of time lost from viewing the games for fans from both the 200 and 300 levels during breaks in the action. There are very few TV monitors open to the field viewing areas along the 200 -concourse. The 100 level of the Dome has its own set of restrooms and concession stands, so it does not share in this flaw.

Return on Investment 3

There are several price points for tickets to an Orange game. The overall range runs between $20- $60 a ticket. There are three levels of seating and the 300-level seats range from $20-$40, with the higher-priced seats along the side of the field and near the 50-yard line. 200-level seats run $20–$30 and the 100-level seats are priced between $40 and $60. Honestly, the seating bowl is angled so that there really is not a bad seat in the house. Even the upper-level seats provide a great view of the field. You also have a huge new videoboard to catch the best plays close up.

Parking in one of the remote lots costs $20 and parking passes must be purchased in advance.

Extras 5

$6 million of the Dome’s renovation cost made the building much more ADA friendly. The building first opened prior to the passage of the ADA so was lacking in many areas of compliance. Items receiving attention include the installation of more elevators, more wheelchair-friendly seating options, upgrading restrooms to allow for better accessibility, installation of wider entry points into the stadium, and closed caption capabilities on the videoboards.

In addition to football games, the JMA Wireless Dome hosts both the basketball and lacrosse programs of Syracuse University, concerts featuring some of music’s top performers, commencement ceremonies for the University, and even ice-based events including hockey and skating competitions.

The Dome has hosted either the semifinals or the finals of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament seven times.

Syracuse University salutes its most famous athlete, Ernie Davis, in many ways on campus. Davis was a star running back at the school, winning the Heisman Trophy. He was the first African American to reach this achievement, and he was the first African American to be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft. Tragically, he died of leukemia before ever playing a game in the NFL. The turf field at the Dome is officially known as the Ernie Davis Legends Field. There is also a statue of Davis on the Syracuse campus, as he was an excellent student. There are additional statues of fellow Syracuse football icons Jim Brown and Floyd Little at the football athletic office building.

The Orange have had some very successful seasons since the football program began in 1899. They won a National Championship in 1959, with the powerful Jim Brown playing running back. Other football stars for the Orange that went on to NFL stardom include Ernie Davis, Tim Green, Art Monk, Floyd Little, Larry Csonka, John Mackey, and Donovan McNabb.

Final Thoughts

There is still no place like ‘Dome at Syracuse University… even if the title sponsorship has changed. The gameday experience has been greatly enhanced by the many updates that have taken place over the last 2-3 seasons. The new scoreboard, an improved sound system. increased accessibility under the ADA and a new roof that allows more light to filter into the playing field all add up to a facility that is well prepared for its next 50 years of use.

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