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Sun Dome director heads to Lakeland

Leaving any job after more than 24 years isn’t easy, former Sun Dome Director Michael LaPan said. But after being approached for a job as director of the Lakeland Center, LaPan realized it was “the right position at the right time,” he said.

Having announced his resignation Dec. 30, LaPan begins his new job today. The Lakeland Center is a multipurpose venue that includes an arena, performing arts center and convention center, he said. He considers Lakeland ripe for development and an exciting prospect.

“I hope to use the skills that I’ve acquired and take them to another level,” he said.

LaPan began working for the Sun Dome in concession and food service in 1980.

“He literally came from the bottom up,” said Clark Brooks, Sun Dome Public Relations Director. Brooks said those years spent climbing the ladder are what lent the familial feel that characterized the Sun Dome faculty under his leadership.

During the 10 years LaPan spent as director, several changes occurred that brought new life to the Sun Dome.

“He began a historic partnership with the St. Pete Times Forum,” Brooks said.

Under LaPan’s direction, the competing venues’ staffs began working together in 2001. When acts come through the Tampa Bay area that have a decidedly larger or smaller draw, the staffs work together to ensure the appropriate venue is chosen. On March 5 both the Harlem Globetrotters and U2 will perform in Tampa. Since the U2 concert has a larger estimated turnout, the performance was given to the Forum and the Globetrotters will perform at the Sun Dome, Brooks said.

“(The partnership) recognizes each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It gives both facilities the chance to maximize the potential for revenue,” Brooks said.

One of LaPan’s greatest accomplishments was the successful balancing of sporting and non-sporting events while allowing the Sun Dome to survive on its own revenue.

“It’s a delicate walk between events and sports while keeping it self-supporting,” LaPan said.

Brooks said the Sun Dome has no plans to fill LaPan’s position. Instead, LaPan’s former staff will begin reporting directly to the athletics department. The result will hopefully improve scheduling.

Both LaPan and Brooks said the change has nothing to do with LaPan’s leaving.

“We were probably heading in that direction anyway,” Brooks said.

“It’s going to streamline the operations,” LaPan said. “I think that it’s something that will benefit the Sun Dome.”