Some open-field planning gives Syracuse a dandy domed stadium

Syracuse University has cooked up a $26 million covered sports stadium to serve its 15,000 students -- and after nearly two years of work it is all set for Saturday's home football opener against Miami of Ohio.

This ambitious private university's financial plan is working when most covered stadiums are having trouble meeting debts.

The successful recipe:

* Sift $15 million in funding from New York State to given an economic boost to its upper region.

* Mix in a contract with a reputable construction company for an anti-inflationary fixed amount. Make the design simple and learn what others have done wrong.

* Add ticket subscriptions for five years at $1,000 a seat in prime locations.

* Let it "cool" with a $2.75 million contribution from the Carrier Corporation and name the dome after this manufacturer of air conditioning systems.

The frosting -- the school has only $2 million left to pay, which may be covered by additional seat sales.

The community gets a piece of the cake, too, via jobs, business, and an industry that brings large numbers of people into the area.

"We got one of the outstanding buys in the nation," said Tom Benzel, Carrier Dome manager. "We are budgeted to be in the black for next year."

The 50,000-seat mid-campus stadium will give Syracuse intercollegiate sports a big boost, Benzel said. The primary market is 650,000 people within 1 1/2 hours' travel time, with an extended market of 3 million.

"It will be the finest collegiate facility in the united States," Benzel said. He noted that next summer Syracuse will host the National Sports Festival , an event staged by the US Olympic Committee in non-Olympic years.

The dome has a two-ply Teflon-coated, inflated roof, similar to that of the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. Air pumps will shoot warm air between the two layers.

The multipurpose stadium will have an eight-lane track. For basketball, a large curtain will be pulled across half the stadium and the court will go along the width of the field, with seating for 22,000-plus spectators.

The Syracuse athletic department is not increasing its budget, although officials see several advantages in having the stadium.

"Our recruiting efforts won't be expanded, but athletes can see that our facility shows our commitment to sports," says Athletic Director John J. Crouthamel.

He adds that there are already indications of increased alumni support.

The incentive for building the dome was the deterioration of Archbold Stadium (built in 1907), coupled with the city's highest-in-the-nation snowfall for a metropolitan area.

The State of New York, for its contribution, will get 20 days' use, which will include the high school football sectional playoffs and the empire State Games, an Olympic-type competition that brings together more than 5,000 youths from across the state.

"I am overjoyed that a private institution can put something like this together in an inflationary period," Benzel said. "It is a remarkable structure."

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