The University of South Florida Sun Dome has been undergoing $35 million renovations and the arena, which will host the Bulls men’s and women’s basketball teams, is almost open for business.
The Sun Dome was designed by Populus, the same company that designed Meadowlands stadium in Rutherford, NJ.
Bulls head coach Stan Heath praised the renovations on Wednesday afternoon at the media press conference. After taking his team one win away from the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament and going 13-1 at home in the Tampa Bay Times Forum last season, he already has dreams of succeeding in the new Sun Dome and next season.
“Five years ago, this was just a conversation, Heath said. “To see it come to fruition is amazing.”
“In my mind, there’s no doubt that we can win Big East championships and we can compete at the very highest levels, Final Four and all of the above at the University of South Florida.’’
Members of the local media were invited to take a tour of the Sun Dome.
In the newly renovated Sun Dome are leather green seats, 10,000 seats for basketball and with retractable seats in the lower bowl, 11,000 for a general admission concert. The seats are now located considerably close to the court to add a different kind of experience for fans and players.
Another addition to the arena includes a four-sided center hung LED scoreboard. Also surrounding the lower bowl is an LED ribbon that includes parts of the former video and scoreboard.
Walking into the arena one would not recognize the building that was once worn down with faded paint on the walls. USF Athletic director Doug Woolard thinks the building’s additions make it look new instead of changed.
“It’s being described as a renovation, but I don’t think you can call it a true renovation,”
“This is like a brand new Sun Dome, “he said. “I think people are going to see it and say, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ‘’
According to Woolard, the arena will also have a 1,500 seat Student Club which is what he says first of its kind in the country.
The hallways of the Sun Dome will be lined with quotes that are painted on the walls including USF’s alma matter and words to the schools fight song.
Basketball fans aren’t the only thing the Sun Dome will entertain.
The Sun Dome was originally built in 1980 and has hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elton John along with Billy Joel.
Projected are 200 plus annual events to be held at the Sun Dome starting with graduation May 4-5.
The arena will now be managed by Global Spectrum. Global Spectrum manages over 100 venues in the United States, Canada, Asia, and the Middle East.
According to Trent Merritt, Global Spectrum Sun Dome manager, new additions to the Sun Dome will attract more artists and fans and the arena will join the competition among venues in the Tampa Bay area.
Merritt says that eighty-percent of touring artists can perform at a similar sized arenas.
“The Tampa market is a very competitive market,” he said. “I think what this facility provides is another great entertainment option not only to the fan that wants to come to a basketball game or a concert, but also to the promoters and agents that are looking for a different sized venue for booking and the business model they have.”
Merritt says that eighty-percent of touring events in the U.S can do so at a similar sized arenas.
The Sun Dome is another addition to a growing Athletics Complex on campus. Last season, the Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center opened with its ribbon cutting in September.
According to Heath, the most notable amenity is that the new Sun Dome is attached to the Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center, where the men’s and women’s basketball teams already practice.
“To have our practice facility attached to the Sun Dome and having it all on campus, it can’t get much better than this,” Heath said.
“From a recruiting standpoint, it’s a slam dunk,” he added. “People think kids choose schools based on academics and other things, but where you play and what it looks like is huge for recruits. They are very much dialed into visionary things, what they can see. It’s going to make a world of difference in our recruiting as we move forward.”