They were renovating one of the most famous college basketball venues ever: the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC (a.k.a The Dean Dome). So many classic games have been played in the Dean Dome. So many moments. So many close games with the crowd roaring and the seats filled… if you’ve been to a game there, you’ve likely been on the edge of one.
Back in 2005, I worked on campus and I’d heard about a remodel they were doing. Apparently they were just throwing stuff away. Fans quickly got wind of this and were hauling souvenirs out of the dumpsters. Their targets: the stadium seats – from which fans had watched so many historic games all the way back to when Warren Martin sunk the first-ever basket in 1986. I’d seen all of the home games as a student. I was there on Feb. 5, 1992 – for the “Bloody Montross game“. I greeted the 1993, 2005 and 2009 National Championship teams with their trophies there. And that’s just the basketball. The Smith Center had also been the place where I’d seen R.E.M., Eric Clapton, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Billy Joel… the list goes on. And now 20 years later, I’ve even taken my kids to several games there. There’s so much basketball — and my own personal — history there.
I went by after work to scout but I didn’t have any success. There wasn’t anything left other than the typical construction debris. I told myself it was just as well, I didn’t have any place for them anyway. And by the way, you can’t even use these things as seats to begin with. They attached directly to the concrete behind the seat (not on the floor) — they have no legs and they wouldn’t stand up by themselves. It would just take up space in my garage anyway. A garage that was full of other, half-complete projects as well as all of the “outside toys” that go along with two young kids.
Flash forward to 2016. My daughter just graduated high school and my son is driving. My wife has put up with a hundred projects by now, most of which are Halloween-related or have something to do with the man cave. (I don’t love that term, but you get the idea.) I’d seen someone post online on a college basketball message board that they’d just fixed up a set of Dean Dome seats. Really? Could they they still be out there? My interest was renewed but where was I going to get a seat? Off to eBay and Craigslist. Here’s what I found…
These 4 pieces have been in a garage in Charlotte for 11 years. I drove to the far side of Charlotte and met the owner (great guy – 2006 grad and rabid fan himself). We exchanged money for goods but then stayed around and talked Tar Heel sports for another 10-15 minutes. He was selling these which he’d rescued on that fateful day because he’d found another set – lower level – and was ready to part with these. We’ve actually texted and emailed over the last few days as he’s been interested to see the progress. Me too.
Below is a set of seats that someone else has restored. This is what I’m going for. I’ll be posting updates here; everything else will be more photo-heavy and not as wordy as above. I just want to be able to chronicle the project in case others want to follow along or restore a set of stadium seats on their own.