Dean Smith Center
|The Dean Dome|
|Full name||Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center|
|Location||300 Skipper Bowles Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
|Owner||University of North Carolina|
|Operator||University of North Carolina|
|Broke ground||April 17, 1982|
|Opened||January 18, 1986|
|Construction cost||$33.8 million
($73 million in 2016 dollars)
|Architect||Corley Redfoot Architects, Inc.|
|Structural engineer||Geiger Engineers|
|Services engineer||Henderson Engineers, Inc.|
|General contractor||Paul Howard Construction|
|North Carolina Tar Heels men's basketball (NCAA) (1986–present)|
The Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center (usually called simply the Dean Smith Center and popularly referred to as the Dean Dome) is a multi-purpose arena in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The arena is home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels men's basketball team, and temporary home to the women's team during renovations to Carmichael Auditorium. The arena opened in 1986.
The arena is named after former North Carolina men's basketball coach Dean Smith, who coached the team from 1961 to 1997. Smith coached the last 11.5 years of his career in the arena, making him one of the few college coaches in any sport to coach in an arena or stadium that is named for him.
By the early 1980s, there was a consensus that the Tar Heels needed a larger arena than the 10,180-seat Carmichael Auditorium. According to David Halberstam's biography of Michael Jordan, Smith did not want the arena named after him, but was persuaded by the UNC administration and the arena's backers that fundraising efforts for the facility could fail if they did not use his name. The first game at the new arena featured the #1 Tar Heels against the #3 Duke Blue Devils on January 18, 1986. Mark Alarie of Duke scored the first basket, but Warren Martin soon followed with the first Tar Heel basket in the new arena, Kenny Smith was credited with the assist. North Carolina ended up defeating Duke 95–92.
The arena originally seated 21,444. Seating adjustments brought capacity to 21,572 in 1992 and 21,750 in 2000.
The largest crowd to see a game in the Dean Dome was on March 6, 2005, when 22,125 fans saw the Tar Heels win 75–73 against Duke. The arena is somewhat spread out, making the seats seem far from the floor. However, the sight lines throughout most of the arena are very good, as they are almost the same as those of Carmichael Auditorium. The only obstructed seats are in the upper rows of the lower level, where the view is partially cut off by the upper level's overhang.
The arena's seating arrangement has been somewhat controversial. Most of the lower-level seats were allocated to members of UNC's athletic booster foundation, the Educational Foundation (better known as the Rams Club). Furthermore, most of those seats are season tickets. While tickets are usually available for most non-conference games, Atlantic Coast Conference games are almost always sold out. For many years, scalping was virtually the only way to get in for ACC games. Recently, UNC has begun putting any tickets returned by the visiting team on sale at 5 pm Eastern Time on the day before any game that is sold out. This is usually the only way to get a seat for anywhere near face value.
In its early years, the arena was known as among the quieter ones in the country because many seats that would have been occupied by students at other schools were occupied by considerably older alumni who were not so inclined to cheer anywhere near as loudly. This led Florida State player Sam Cassell to say that the Dean Dome “is not a Duke kind of crowd. It’s more like a cheese-and-wine crowd, kind of laid back." In contrast, Carmichael Auditorium was known for its noise level; before one game, the Virginia Cavaliers couldn't hear their names announced during player introductions because of the din.
Since 1992, however, expanded student seating and a younger alumni base has made the Smith Center louder. For example, after the Tar Heels defeated then top-ranked Ohio State in 2006, Buckeyes coach Thad Matta stated, "I think I’ve never been in a building that was as loud as that building was at times." Earlier, after the then top-ranked Connecticut Huskies were defeated by Carolina at the Dean Dome in 2004, Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said, "I don't know what they are talking about because there was no 'wine and cheese' crowd here today."
The arena is usually at its loudest for games against Duke. However, during a regular-season game against Maryland in 2000, more students were allowed into the lower level. The game had been postponed two days because of a heavy snowstorm. Students were also allowed to take most of the lower level seats during the Tar Heels' National Invitation Tournament appearance in 2003.
Home court advantage
The Tar Heels have one of the most formidable home-court advantages in the country, rarely losing more than three home games in a season. One of the few times they have lost more than that was the 2009–2010 season, when they finished with a disappointing 5 home losses (16–16 overall). As of the end of the 2009–2010 season, North Carolina had a record of 282–56 (.834) at the Smith Center, an average of 11.5 wins and just 2.1 losses per year. They have gone undefeated at home four times since the arena opened (1986–1987, 1992–1993, 2004–2005 and 2010–2011).
The first loss to occur at the Dean Dome happened on February 20, 1986 to a University of Maryland team led by Len Bias. Maryland won a thrilling 77-72 overtime game against the top-ranked Tar Heels.
The arena has also held many concerts and is used by many of the graduate and professional schools, such as the UNC School of Law, for commencement ceremonies each year, as well as the same for all undergraduates receiving degrees in December of each year. It is also the graduation site for the local high schools each June.
The arena has also hosted concerts from Janet Jackson, Morrissey, R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen, Grateful Dead, Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Boyz II Men, and many others. On April 28, 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama held a rally in the arena in anticipation of the North Carolina primary. President Obama (a Senator at the time) spoke in front of 18,000 while showing support of his surroundings in a Carolina-blue tie.
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