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Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Life after the Carrier Dome?

By Eamonn Brennan

Manley Field House is a name most college basketball fans should recognize. Built in 1962, Manley housed Syracuse basketball until 1980, when the team moved into the Carrier Dome. It is still on Syracuse's campus, where it hosts volleyball and other events, but it is most famous for its service to the Georgetown-Syracuse blood feud. Before 1980, the Hoyas and Orange were competitors, and little more. When John Thompson delivered his famous "Manley Field House is officially closed," he managed to pack so much ether into six words that a rivalry was born on the spot.

It's been that way ever since.

Of course, the move from Manley to the Carrier Dome was common sense: Manley was an older building with a capacity of just 9,500; the Carrier Dome was at the time a larger, modern building that could serve Orange football, and help the basketball team pack the thousands and thousands of fans Jim Boeheim's elevated success fosters. Since 1980, visiting the Carrier Dome for a basketball game has seemed to be (note: I've never been, hence "seemed"; I'm sure 'Cuse fans can correct me if I'm wrong) an impressively incongruous experience. Basketball isn't supposed to be good in domes. We purists are supposed to advocate for arenas. And yet for 33 years, Syracuse home crowds have managed to not only be large, but extremely loud and very engaged. At this point, the Carrier Dome feels more like a basketball building than anything else, doesn't it?

Still, it is 33 years old, which has folks in Syracuse -- namely Post-Standard writer Sean Kirst -- trying to figure out what comes next:
Even so, the limitations of the aging building are evident. The lack of air conditioning beneath the vast ceiling makes many Central New Yorkers reluctant to give up precious autumn Saturdays in return for a few warm and sweaty hours of watching indoor football. Bet on this: At the university and in the halls of government, there is already conversation about the life span of the dome, and what comes next whenever it reaches the end of its run.

This is also coming up because the Syracuse Crunch, the city's American Hockey League franchise, is currently competing for the Calder Cup; they play Grand Rapids at the old Onandoga County War Memorial, a charming but aging 6,000-seat stadium that could actually give Syracuse University at least one partner in a new arena venture somewhere down the line. There are plenty of municipal concerns to be dealt with, but the thought of a brand new, centralized 20,000-seat arena is at least a little bit exciting.

Is there any doubt the Orange could turn a new building into a pulsating Orange fortress? Even from afar, it'd be fun to see Syracuse in a basketball arena, right? Or is the Dome too beloved, even in its rapidly increasing age, to discuss it?