SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – The last time Syracuse University basketball played at the Carrier Dome with fans in the stands was Feb. 29, 2020. Almost thirty thousand fans witnessed Syracuse’s loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels, 92-79.
Wednesday night, SU will host Pace University in an exhibition game — kicking off its 2021-22 season campaign.
Since fans last entered the Dome to see head coach Jim Boeheim and his team, the more than three-decades-old indoor stadium has undergone some changes — some cosmetic, some functional. A giant center-hung scoreboard now hangs over the playing surface. New stadium lights and sound systems have been installed.
Tickets have gone mobile-only — a measure that was taken due to the pandemic. In addition, concession stands have gone cashless.
Chief Facilities Officer Pete Sala said the touchless additions are something that will remain in place for the future, and that for most people, the changes have been seamless.
“People are really adapting to the mobile ticketing… I’ve only had a couple asks for people to have hard tickets,” Sala said. “And they’re people that share their tickets quite frequently, but are not college freshmen or sophomores or juniors or seniors. So they’re not used to it — and they’re taking time — they’re adapting.”
Sala said he and his team have also adapted to the fans — strengthening mask mandate enforcement in-season.
“You’ve seen way more messaging during the game, in-game messaging,” Sala said. “There’s messaging outside the venue. You know, those pre-screening tents are very, very important to us. We’ve done a lot better job of engaging with the fans in the building, to ask them to make sure they wore their masks.”
Jonathan Danilich, a senior member of Otto’s Army, Syracuse University’s student section, said his organization will be attempting to enforce the school’s protocol as well. He said that the organization, in consultation with the university, will use social media and other venues like cheer sheets to remind students.
“It’s really hard to police 6,000 students in the Carrier Dome,” Danilich said. “… I always like to say we take the same stance that [Syracuse University] Athletics and the University takes, and what they tell us to do.”
Before the game takes place, Syracuse University’s Athletic Department has issued new guidance regarding COVID-19 for fans attending games.
Fans under the age of 12 will not be required to bring a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry into the Dome.
Danilich said the relaxation of these rules will bring more people from the surrounding area to games.
“We might be getting a lot more families back in the Dome, which is good for everyone,” Danilich said.