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Despite large capacity, Carrier Dome’s first priority is SU

Although Syracuse has the largest indoor arena within 260 miles, major concerts and community events are rare because of its commitment to Orange athletics and campus activities.

Looming over the Syracuse skyline is a 527,320 square foot mass of gray cement on the campus of Syracuse University. Though bland to the eye on its exterior, the building frequently radiates orange and the emotion of fervent fans from the inside.

The Carrier Dome is a staple of the university, providing a lifetime of memories for its guests. It welcomes students on preview days, bids them farewell during commencement and hosts countless events in between.

"It’s challenging because then when you put all of those dates onto a calendar, you’ve got very limited weekends and times that are available.”
- Michael Kravec

This dedication to Syracuse, however, also prevents the Dome from reaching its full potential in hosting non-university events. Although the 49,250-capacity arena is the largest indoor venue within 260 miles, an area encompassing cities such as Montreal, Philadelphia and New York City, it seldom holds occasions not related to the school.

Holding outside events has proven successful in the past. The Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, a monster truck show held in the Dome on March 12, 2011, drew 35,986 people. A Billy Joel concert in March of 2006 had an attendance of 38,723. Both were one of the top events in attendance for their year, surpassed only by six and four football games, respectively.

From July 10, 2005 to March 21, 2011, 554 official events have taken place in the Dome. Of these events, about 96 per year, only six have not been university or high school sports or SU-sponsored events. In the past year, some of these non-SU athletic events have included the Martin Luther King dinner, preview days for prospective students and the new student convocation.

The average attendance at the six non-Syracuse-related events, however, is 10,771 more than the other activities held in the Dome.

Difficulties scheduling the Dome

Although the Carrier Dome staff constantly seeks such events to take place at the Dome, several factors make this search nearly impossible.

The main conflict is scheduling. The Dome holds an average of 2.4 events per week, ranging from SU sports to annual university events such as the preview days in April and Martin Luther King Dinner in January.

“We are a department of Syracuse University, so there are events that we do every year for the university that are scheduled in,” Michael Kravec, Faculty Operations Assistant for the Dome, said. “In addition, we are the home of Syracuse athletics. It’s challenging because then when you put all of those dates onto a calendar, you’ve got very limited weekends and times that are available.”

Adding further complications to the Dome’s busy schedule is that events like major concerts require five days worth of scheduling - it takes three days to set up, one for the event and one to tear down. It is nearly impossible to find such a hole in the Dome’s schedule, especially in the height of the athletic season.

Working around SU sports

This dedication of the Dome to SU sporting events also influences which large events the arena can host due to which flooring is down. During football and lacrosse seasons, an 82,000-square foot Field Turf covers the Dome floor, and for basketball, a 225-interlocking section hardwood floor sits atop a mat to protect the field underneath.

Since it costs more money to drastically change the floor plans, many events are planned in harmony with the Syracuse sports schedule. The Harlem Globetrotters, for example, visited the Dome in February this year because the hardwood was already down for Syracuse basketball. 

“If you wanted to do a basketball game right now when we are set up for lacrosse, it would cost significantly more to change over the arena to that setup,” Kravec said. “If you can find a time that you are set up for one or the other, it’s obviously going to cost a lot less and be more beneficial. I’m not saying that we couldn’t do it right now, but those are additional costs you have to look at.”

Finding a hole large enough in the Dome’s schedule in conjunction with the correct flooring proves why so few large outside events occur in the building.

Roof complications

One of the Dome’s most prominent features also makes scheduling concerts difficult. The inflatable roof looms 165 feet above the floor at its highest surface and is a characteristic visible from much of the campus and downtown Syracuse.

Although it keeps the Dome warm and dry, the inflatable roof actually classifies the arena as an outdoor venue when installing a stage because of the inability to hang a grid system from the ceiling. An outdoor stage must therefore be rented for any sort of concert, further increasing costs to host such events.

Despite these complications, the Dome staff constantly tries to bring in additional events. This year the Dome hosted three such affairs ⎯ the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam, the Harlem Globetrotters and WWE ⎯ and more are in the works. A repeat appearance of the Monster Jam has already been announced for March 10, 2012.

“We are out there actively trying to bring in concerts and big events into the building,” Kravec said. “We’ve got some exciting ones for next year that haven’t been released yet that we think that people will be happy with.”

View Large Indoor Areas Surrounding Carrier Dome in a full screen map

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