The Syracuse Tourism Board sure had it out for me.
When I passed through town back in October, I made a comment that the downtown area was a ghost town – none of the businesses were open on this particular Sunday. Eventually, we found a packed house at the infamous Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and later a good drink from the Wall of Booze at Al’s, however before those two discoveries we had a hell of a time finding someone to talk to.
It was never meant to be a put down – I had a great time that night. But still, I thought people should be aware that if you’re going to pass through town for a night, be sure it’s not a Sunday – that’s all I was saying.
This weekend on my return visit, they were going to make sure those words never entered my head. They suggested we check out the Syracuse vs. Louisville basketball game at the Carrier Dome on campus. It was the last game of the regular season, and the collegiate sports’ scene is very much a part of the culture in this Upstate New York town.
They weren’t kidding: 33,205 people turned out for the game Saturday. To put that in perspective, 9,314 attended the Duke/North Carolina game later that night. The Carrier Dome is huge – it’s where the football team also plays – yet I found they did a nice job of making it intimate. It might be one of the biggest venues in the country, yet once in my seat and immersed in the atmosphere, it never occurred to me that only half the facility was being utilized. Other fans didn’t mind, either, as they sat well behind the court with limited sight lines just to be in the arena (see photo below).
Also aiding in the fun: They sell beer up until the start of the second half, which is something that my college (Virginia Tech) never did at any sporting event (although the idea is apparently gathering national steam).
Basketball season is a great time to be in Syracuse – whether you’re at the game or downtown, you feel the vibe coursing through the town. To get a sense of the atmosphere that day during the opening tip, see the video on Facebook.