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Dome poised to drop ‘Sun’

For the past 22 years, the place that houses USF’s basketball games and frequently serves as a concert venue has been known as the Sun Dome. But that name is about to change.

Recently, USF and Sun Dome officials have been searching for a business partner to issue naming rights for the arena.

But the selected business will not be accountable for simply providing a new name.

“It will be more than just naming rights,” said Mike LaPan, president of the Sun Dome. “We want the potential naming partner to have a relationship with USF.”

LaPan said Sun Dome officials are in the process of talking to one company now, but he cannot say the company’s name.

“If the company says yes (to the naming deal), then we will move forward,” LaPan said. “If it says no, there are other companies that are interested.”

Discussion for naming rights first began in 2001, with PepsiCo as a potential buyer. However, Coca-Cola owns campus vending rights for USF.

Naming rights for arenas the size of the Sun Dome typically go for $750,000 to $1.25 million a year. LaPan said the chosen company will be involved in addition sponsorship opportunities and promotional events.

LaPan added that the funds received in the naming rights deal will help improve the Sun Dome so it can become more involved in the competitive market.

“This was a great arena in 1980, but in 2003, it needs some improvements,” LaPan said.

Sun Dome officials are already speaking to design consultants about adding at least 12 new luxury suites and improving lower-level seats with cushioned seating.

LaPan said the suites could be sold to the public so the funds that would have been used to construct the suites could go toward improving something else.

Since this is only preliminary planning, LaPan said he doesn’t have an estimate on expenses nor where additional funds will come from if needed.

“It all depends on (how much money) we get in the (naming rights deal),” LaPan said. “We don’t want to overextend ourselves.”

The earliest renovation projects could start would be within 18 months, once the new athletic facility is complete. LaPan said the company that will be responsible for renovations is yet to be determined.