espite the unknowns of the 2020 season, Syracuse faces one certainty: Almost every game will be held in an empty stadium.
For now, that includes the recently renovated Carrier Dome. There will be no deafening third downs. No ‘O’ chant in the Star-Spangled Banner. No Dome nachos.
“I think it’s going to be really weird,” said preseason All-American safety Andre Cisco. “I’ve seen the NBA guys do it, and they haven’t flinched at all. It’s a lot different with football, especially college football, when the fans are on your team, basically. It’s tough, but I guess we’ll have to do it for the sake of the game.”
Syracuse is working on contingency plans should Gov. Andrew Cuomo change course on banning spectators at athletic events, Director of Athletics John Wildhack said. But that seems unlikely given New York state’s cautious reopening process.
Having a fanless Carrier Dome for football, SU Athletics’ biggest source of revenue, will impact Syracuse’s bottom line. The ripple effects of athletes playing in empty stadiums, likely for the first time in their lives, will extend far beyond the Dome’s concrete walls. An empty Dome will lead to millions in losses for the university and surrounding areas, experts told The Daily Orange.
SU football generated $43.8 million of the athletics department’s record $99.8 million total revenue as of 2018-19, the most recent data available. Jeremy Losak, a professor of sports economics at Syracuse, estimates that roughly 20-30% of that football money came from ticket sales.
“It’s just going to be eerie,” said Danny Liedka, CEO and president of Visit Syracuse. “This is a sports town, this is a Syracuse town. I think there’s an emotional component that people are going to suffer, too. You get to go there, get to cheer on your team, enjoy friendships and family together in a great setting.”
Visit Syracuse is a branch of the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce focused on growing Onondaga County’s tourism industry. SU sporting events drive millions into the local economy from fans who come from outside central New York and spend money at games, hotels and restaurants, Liedka said.
But without fans, that revenue dries up. “It’s a big hit,” Liedka said.