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Sun Dome may sell naming rights

Welcome to the Pepsi Sun Dome. There is a possibility that this announcement will be heard soon at USF.

Under a new drink consolidation deal being developed at USF, the naming rights to the Sun Dome could possibly be sold. If this were to occur, USF would join several other universities nationwide, such as the University of Wisconsin and Ohio State University, which sold the naming rights to their sports venues.

Michael LaPan, president of Sun Dome, Inc., said it’s too early to say for certain whether this will occur.

“It’s a little premature,” he said. “The trend is fairly common.”Sun Dome, Inc., which operates the Sun Dome, is independent of the university.

LaPan said that a rough estimate of the amount of money it will take to sell the naming rights to the Sun Dome is $500,000 over a 10 year contract.

“There are a limited number of companies interested in something like that,” he said. “It’s speculative at best.”

LaPan commented that the money needed to keep the Sun Dome operating is very high. He said that the budget is $3.5 million with only 10 percent coming from the university.

“The Sun Dome is self-supportive,” he said. “The money has to come from somewhere.”

LaPan said he believes such a deal would be good for USF. He said approximately 300,000 people enter the Sun Dome for various events every year.

“We’re in a big city,” he said. “The Sun Dome maintains one of the more high-profile images with the community.”

LaPan has several plans for the Sun Dome that he’d like to implement should the kind of money involved in such a deal be brought in.

He said one of the first options would be to replace seats in Level 1 with new cushioned seats. In addition to new seats, LaPan would also like to invest in a new video scoreboard.

“The whole thing is geared towards improving this facility,” he said.While LaPan said naming rights to the Sun Dome are open to any corporation, the most likely scenario is that it will be named as part of a new package which will allow soft drink manufacturers to exclusively sell their products on campus. This consolidation would be worth considerably more to USF than the current soft drink contracts.

“The trend is not so much for the naming rights as the pouring rights,” he said.

Jeff Mack, director for Auxiliary Services, confirmed LaPan’s comments saying that the naming rights may just be part of a larger soft drink package.

“I think the naming rights part is just one option available,” he said.Mack said the first step in the process is sending out a Request for Proposal, or RFP. The university plans to do this by the end of July he said. Once this is accomplished, companies will have a time period to respond, and a bidding process will ensue.

Mack said a board of faculty, staff, and students will then decide which bid best fits the needs of the school. The naming option will be brought up during the bidding process, he said.

Mack said that a deal would be sought which will best benefit the university.

“It’s important for the university that it’s a partnership,” he said.Such a partnership will result in the Sun Dome becoming a more attractive facility for visitors and for events, Mack said.

“There will be more and more events at the Sun Dome and it can attract traffic,” he said.

Mack said the final decision will be made as late as the end of the fall semester. Once it is completed, implementation will begin. The implementation process could be lengthy, Mack said.”You would have to be moving machines around either way,” he said.

Under USF’s current drink plan, Coca-Cola owns the rights to vending machines on campus. The Sun Dome, however, is affiliated with PepsiCo. Consolidation would bring millions of dollars into the university.

LaPan said that such a package will financially benefit the university. He said consolidating will make a lot more for the university than the current package.

“It will be worth millions,” he said.

The naming of collegiate sporting arenas has become popular in recent years. It remains to be seen whether students at USF will feel alienated by a renaming of the Sun Dome.

“We don’t want to sell out. We don’t have to sell out,” Mack said. “We would look at the whole package before we make a recommendation.”

Mack said selling the name would be a good business move for the university.

“It’s a future investment in the university,” he said. “If naming rights are accepted, we are looking at how they will benefit the university.”If the university decides to make a consolidation deal with PepsiCo, they might be faced with a conflict of interests. Raymond James Stadium, where USF plays all of its home football games, is under contract to sell only Coca-Cola products. Both Mack and LaPan feel that this will not be a problem.

“The university doesn’t have control (at Raymond James Stadium),” Mack said. “We’ll probably address these issues in the RFP.”

According to Mack, when a deal is made the company will be aware of the situation at the stadium. USF’s contract with the stadium also specifies that field-level advertising may be sold to any company that USF chooses. Therefore, while PepsiCo products could not be sold at stadium concession stands, their advertising may be prominently displayed, Mack said.

LaPan also said that PepsiCo advertisements will be put strategically into locations where media outlets will record them.”We will have Pepsi banners and signage,” he said. “It’s written into the deal.”

At on-campus venues like the Sun Dome whichever company is chosen will have exclusive rights to sales and advertising.

LaPan echoed Mack’s statement that a partnership would be necessary for a step such as sales of the naming rights to occur.

“We’re going to price it at what the market will bear in order to form a partnership,” he said.

Mack said the deal which will possibly arise is a new step for the university.

“We’re on new ground as are the local vendors,” he said.

Mack said he also believes this is an important step forward for the university.

“This will provide the university with a lot of exposure,” he said. “It’s a win-win.”