Take a Seat

If only the University would consult me prior to major projects, I could make them boatloads of cash.


The Story Behind the Object

You're probably aware that I went to school at the University of North Carolina. If not, surprise! The guy that writes a weekly column about all the Carolina Collectibles he owns went to school there! I received an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and a Masters Degree in Accounting. And while I was attending the MAC program, the school decided to renovate the Dean E. Smith Center.

"Renovate" may be a strong word. They replaced all the seats in the lower level. Don't get me wrong, the new seats are nice and all. I'm just saying it was less of a “renovation” and more along the lines of repainting your living room in basically the same color it already was. They didn't add on a master bedroom or get all new appliances and install granite countertops in the kitchen.

The most interesting thing about the entire seat upgrade project is that they ripped out the old seats and threw them in the dumpster. At first, that makes sense. These seats were deemed to be in such bad condition that people wouldn't want to sit in them at a basketball arena for two hours. They've had popcorn and coke spilled on them, things wiped under them, and many had endured spills of all kinds. So there was pretty much nothing to do with them except throw them out. I mean, who would want them?

Thousands of people, that's who. Literally. Thousands. Of. People. I don't know exactly how it happened. I assume a student happened to be walking past the Dean Dome when one of the first chairs was chucked into the dumpster. He or she saw it happen and thought "Hey, that would be cool to take back to my dorm/apartment," so they jumped in the dumpster and fished it out. They then proceeded to call and tell a couple of their friends that they should come by and get one too. Those people called their friends and those people called their friends, and suddenly there was a line of people waiting in line to salvage these chairs from the garbage. Let that sink in for a minute. People lined up. To go dumpster diving.

How do I know this is how it happened? Because I was one of the friends called by one of the friends. In fact, I was called three different times (on three separate days). In each instance, by the time I arrived, all of the chairs were already gone. The construction crew discarded them one or two sections at a time over the span of a couple of weeks, and you never knew when they'd be starting a new section. But when they started, you had a limited window of time to get there before they were gone.

Finally, one glorious morning as I walked from the S11 parking lot toward the Business School, I saw it unfolding in front of my very eyes. Construction workers exiting the Smith Center and placing chairs beside the dumpster. By this point, they'd stopped throwing them into the dumpster, as they knew throngs of students and locals would show up shortly and take them off of their hands. So, I sprinted up to the school, dropped my books off in whatever class I was supposed to be attending, grabbed a few of my buddies, and ran back down to the Dome. I did my best to find two chairs with minimal stains and carried them back to the car.

There was only one small problem with the chairs, which anyone who acquired one can tell you. They weren't functional. Once they'd been unbolted and unhinged from the metal posts securing them to the Smith Center floor, they were just two individual pieces. A seat base and a seat back. Unusable. Half of them probably wound up back in the very dumpsters they were rescued from. The other half were sold on eBay for a hundred dollars each.

Which reminds me - I'll never understand why the University didn't just sell them to begin with. Let's assume there were 10,000 seats replaced. At $100 a pop, they could have made a million dollars. Seems like it would have defrayed some of the costs of the new chairs they installed. But I'm just an accountant, what do I know? Maybe they assumed since the chairs weren't functional that no one would want them. But you know what happens when you assume.

Luckily, my father-in-law happens to be a contractor with an engineering mind. He watched a couple of games, paying close attention to the crowd shots of the new seats to see how they worked. Then he built a wooden frame on which to bolt the chairs, and voila - seats from the Dean Dome are now in my house.

Carolina Collectibles Comparison: Tyler Hansbrough

An item like this is pretty special. Maybe not quite once in a lifetime, but definitely once in a decade. These seats saw a lot of really special games. The FSU comeback? They were there. Vince Carter's missed alley oop off the backboard from Ed Cota? There were there. The Marvin Williams putback? They were there. And now, they're in my bonus room. Likewise, Tyler Hansbrough was pretty special. Maybe even more of a once in a generation type of player. He was also in the Smith Center for some special games. Unfortunately, unlike these two seats, he is not currently in my bonus room.

Carolina Collectibles Rating: 5 Stars

I don't know how you could rate them anything other than five stars. They are fully functional seats that have had the butts of numerous Ram's Club members sitting in them.