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How to Fix the Dean Dome

Posted on Feb 23, 2015 by

Roy’s post-game press conference tirade regarding the Dean Dome’s lackluster atmosphere this Saturday was nothing new. The “wine and cheese” debate has lingered in Chapel Hill ever since the Tar Heels moved from Carmichael Auditorium to the Dean E Smith Center. So rather than rehashing stale criticisms and pointing fingers, let’s jump straight to fixing the problem.

My plan to improve the Dean Dome atmosphere is three-pronged. The first is a penalty system for students not using their tickets that would both provide incentive to attend games and eliminate those students who waste tickets from the lottery pool (an important caveat being that it wouldn’t matter if the ticket was used by person who it was originally assigned to — as long as it is used). Unused tickets would incur the following repercussions:

1st & 2nd offense – Warning email
3rd offense – Ineligible for Duke tickets
4th offense – Ineligible for all lottery distributions

You can’t convince me such a system wouldn’t decrease the number of unused tickets. What it would do is force students to do more planning ahead before applying for games, encourage students who are on the fence about attending the game to use their tickets, and increase the effort of students with tickets to find someone who wanted to use them in their stead.

However, even with increased student attendance there is still the inherent flaw in the seating system that precludes any coordinated student activity like the awesome Interlude Dance at Northern Iowa or Maryland’s beautifully executed Harlem Shake from a couple years back. Don’t tell me Carolina’s students aren’t capable of creativity en masse either. A few years back an amusing trend of library flash mobs began in Chapel Hill and swept the country. UNC students are as capable of any at going wild in the student section, they just need to have enough students concentrated in one place.

That brings us to the second, and likely most controversial, part of my plan to fix Carolina’s gameday atmosphere — dramatically rearranging student seating in the Dean Dome (To make this easy to follow, open this seating chart in another tab). Currently student seating is located in the risers (gray area below 116-118), part of sections 116-118, part of section 107, and in several sections of the upper deck. I propose that all student seating be moved into sections 111-123. In addition the band should be moved into this area from section 106.

Will there be a few alumni who get bumped up to the upper deck? Yes. But speaking as a recent alumnus from the university I would rather lose a chance at lower deck seats if it meant having a unified student section that gave the team a consistent infusion of energy. When it comes right down to it undergraduates at Carolina get just four years of access to free tickets to Carolina Basketball games — why not ensure that they get the best possible experience in that limited time?

The third and most ambitious part of my plan is to move two of the nonconference games that occur over Christmas Break into Carmichael Arena. I wrote a letter to the editor about this during my senior year of college, then a few months later I saw it actualized in UNC’s first round NIT game against William and Mary. Aside from Duke-UNC games and a couple other top 10 showdowns (OSU, MSU, Kentucky), it was the most electric atmosphere I’ve experienced at a Tar Heel basketball game. And this was against William and Mary in the first round of the Not Invited Tournament.

For specifics, I refer you to the Carmichael seating chart. Students and the band would be assigned sections 116-118. The remaining lower level seats would go to high ranking Rams Club members. The upper levels would be sold to the general public for $50-60 a pop (currently general admission tickets to these games are $25). As I said, three of the nonconference games during Christmas break would be the best options, as these are the games that are most likely to result in a 1/3 full Dean Dome in which you could hear a pin drop. Yes the income for the games may drop a bit, but the reward would be a packed house and an exciting atmosphere. And the chance for these “Throwback” arena games played on the same court where  would introduce a unique recruiting pitch

Unfortunately, much if not all of this is not going to happen. Money and alumni who aren’t willing to part with their lower level seats will stop what I think are some realistic ideas dead in their tracks. But if by the miniscule chance that this actually may inspire change, perhaps you won’t have to hark quite as much to hear the sound of Tar Heel voices in the Dean E. Smith Center.


John Tobben  —  Contributor

Affiliations: RaleighCo,

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