Dome some home for Syracuse hoopsters
In just six years, more than two million basketball fans have braved the icy winds and unpredictable weather of central New York to see the Syracuse Orangemen play in the Carrier Dome. Crowds that have topped 32,500, and which average better than 26,000, have made life miserable for opposing players and coaches. The dome sits at the heart of the Syracuse campus, high atop University Hill, which overlooks the city. From the outside, it resembles a giant-size pillow with its white, bubble roof. Inside, it is one of the liveliest places in the country to play.Skip to next paragraph
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Ken Hunter, a senior at Syracuse, is just one of thousands of fans who yell, scream, and heckle opposing teams. ``There is a tradition that Syracuse fans have to live up to at every game,'' Hunter says. ``Being at the games is more of an event than just watching two teams playing basketball.''
Such noted college basketball dens as Rupp Arena in Kentucky, The Mecca in Milwaukee, Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, and The Palestra in Philadelphia can appear tame in comparison to the Dome.
``This place is insane compared to those places,'' Mike Holdridge, the Dome's public relations director, said. ``You have to see this place in action for a sold-out game to see a zoo at its finest.''
On one occasion, when Syracuse hosted Georgetown on national television, the crowd became so aroused that the visiting team was pulled off the court until the spectators calmed down.
Though noticeably more subdued, partly at the Big East Conference's insistence, recent crowds have proved no less committed in cheering the nation's seventh-ranked squad, which is off to an 11-0 start.
If the spectators, who form a sea of orange, are not enough of a distraction, Syracuse has an official mascot and a handful of unofficial ones that parade around the perimeter of the court, whipping-up crowd support. Besides Syracuse's own ``Orange,'' there is Dome Eddie, The Beast of the East, and most famous of all, The Dome Ranger, a local disc jockey who runs around the arena in orange cowboy garb and a blue Lone Ranger mask. A number of fraternities have mascots of their own, and all move to the music of the Sour Sitrus Society, rated the nation's best pep band by the Basketball Times.
The Dome, as it's known in these parts, is the largest on-campus facility of its kind.
Built originally as a 50,000-seat football stadium, the $28 million prefab stadium was principally intended to rejuvenate interest in the school's sagging gridiron program. Though the football team hasn't generated the kind enthusiasm inspired by the '50s and '60s teams of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, and Larry Csonka, basketball has flourished under the Teflon roof. Syracuse-area fans, who once had enjoyed having the Nationals, an NBA team, in the city, have broken and rebroken national attendance records. This situation has played a role in the rapid rise of the Big East Conference to national prominence.
``I think we have a pretty good basketball facility. The seats that are way up there,'' coach Jim Boeheim says pointing to the upper deck, ``are as close or closer than they are in places like Madison Square Garden or other comparable big arenas.''