Sun Dome to get upgrades

It’s old, it needs a paint job – or at least a power washing – and it’s what the USF basketball teams call home.

The Sun Dome.

Opened in 1980 and built at a cost of $12 million, athletic administration and staff alike have been working hard for a much-needed renovation.

And now the fans finally have it.

The USF Athletic Department announced Tuesday its vast improvements to the Sun Dome for the 2005-06 season. In addition to the renovations that have already occurred – such as carpeting and new paint at all four entrances – there will be four state-of-the-art video scoreboards, two of which will feature full high-end graphics and video capabilities. Both will play in-house feeds showing instant replays and in-game highlights.

The scoreboards are slated to be installed in time for the first Big East home game in 2006, which is against West Virginia on Jan. 5.

Each of the four scoreboards, produced by Daktronics, were made possible through a partnership with Action Sports Media, a company that provides “niche collegiate sports marketing services specializing in athletic venue media rights.”

Associate Director of Athletics Tom Veit, the man responsible for spearheading the partnership, claimed that with the entrance to the Big East – a conference with very good basketball teams such as Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Louisville and West Virginia – the scoreboards were not only wanted, but they were needed.

“It’s going to be unreal,” Veit said. “What people are not going to realize is what (the Sun Dome) is going to look like with the new scoreboards. It will change and shape the way people look at USF basketball. A way that was truly needed.”

Action Sports is funding the new scoreboards for the Sun Dome – estimated to cost between $1.8 and $2 million – as part of a 10-year agreement between the Athletic Department and the Tennessee-based company. Action Sports also worked with other universities such as Texas, Tennessee, Iowa, Purdue, Kentucky, South Carolina and Oklahoma State.

“Action Sports is providing the scoreboards,” Veit said. “In that 10-year agreement, after 10 years, (USF) will own the scoreboards and the new control center, which will give us highlights and new camera views.

“Because of the deal, Action (Sports) will have the right to sell all the signage in the Sun Dome at every event and whatever is on the scoreboard. And how all of that will break down is (the Athletic Department) will have a revenue share with Action,” he said.

For now, the Sun Dome will still remain the Sun Dome.

USF will also reap some unseen benefits from its relationship with Action Sports. According to Veit, “the best analogy to give is that they will be like our real estate agent.”

Veit also said the company “has just started to look” and that “no real buyers are lined up yet.”

But it won’t come cheap.

The naming rights to the Sun Dome can range from $300,000 to $700,000 for just one year, though the renovations don’t stop with just the scoreboards and naming rights.

A new playing surface, produced by Connor Sports Flooring, will be laid in October. The new surface is made of northern hard maple and features red power shock pads. A USF logo provided by Praters Floor will also be placed at mid-court.

In the works is the movement of press row behind the scorer’s table, which in essence will move fans’ seats closer to the court.

In addition to the fans’ seating area, the seats themselves have been replaced. The seats have been “untruncated,” which means they are not pushed back when not in use.

According to Athletic Director Doug Woolard, the renovations have been a long time coming.

“We’ve been talking about renovations since I got here (in 2004), and it’s been on my radar screen,” said Woolard, who came from St. Louis after 10 years there and took over for former

Athletic Director Lee Roy Selmon. “Basically so we can create a better atmosphere for our fans as well as helping to recruit for our basketball teams. It’s going to better for both the fans and the teams.

“Now, the biggest thing I noticed is this year when watching games (was) I couldn’t tell if (it) was an eight or a three (on the scoreboards). That’s how state-of-the-art it’s going to be. It’s going to be significant.”

Woolard and company couldn’t be more excited with the way the facilities are shaping up, even though he claims a timetable has not officially been allocated for the other facilities on campus, such as the baseball and softball fields, the intramural fields, the track and soccer fields and the football practice fields.

“This is going to be the latest and greatest stuff from Daktronics, which will change the fan experience,” Woolard said. “Daktronics is telling us this is going to be as good as there is in the country.

“With all the tradition in Big East basketball, I think many of them are up to par. I think the newness of ours will show the fans a much-improved environment,” he said.

Veit, who was just as excited, mentioned that USF could have the best scoreboards in the state.

“(Florida) doesn’t have scoreboards like this. Let me put it this way: The (University of Florida’s) O’ Connell Center will hope to get what we’re getting,” Veit said. “Basketball will have an environment now. It’s basically going to be like someone getting a brand new big screen (TV) in their house.”

Woolard, however, knows whom the scoreboard will really impress.

“I am excited about this, and I think it’s deserved,” he said. “I think our teams deserve it. I think the students deserve it, and I think our fans really deserve it.”