On the market

What’s in a name?

For USF athletics and Action Sports Media, about $5 million.

The two signed a 10-year contract in Sept. 2005 to make improvements to the Sun Dome. USF agreed to share revenues with the Knoxville, Tenn.-based firm in exchange for new screens in the Sun Dome and the agreement that Action Sports would be in charge of selling the naming rights of the 26-year-old structure.

Associate Athletic Director of External Affairs Tom Veit has been working with Action Sports, who are now in the final stages of determining a proposed price to charge potential sponsors, or what Veit called its “street value.”

“I talk to them everyday,” Veit said. “They’re working on it – they got started working on it toward the end of last year – they’re doing it.”

For the Athletic Department, re-naming the Sun Dome has been a goal since the end of its construction in 1980.

Veit said the difference now is the sales force provided by Action Sports Media, which is in charge of finding a buyer.

“We didn’t have (a sales force) in the past,” Veit said. “So that was the first step, having people going out and selling everyday.”

Now Action Sports is in step two of the process: determining the Sun Dome’s value to potential sponsors.

Veit said the company is looking at everything from how often the Sun Dome is mentioned nationally to how many cars are parked in the parking lot in order to determine the number.

Action Sports’ Vice President of Sales Bill Hodge said the preliminary estimate is “north of $500,000” a year, but the report – which Action Sports teamed with Jetstream Public Relations and research company Joyce Julius & Associates to produce – isn’t finalized. According to Hodge, Action Sports has already talked to “three or four” potential buyers.

“We have had some preliminary conversations with some companies both in Tampa and elsewhere in Florida,” said Hodge, who added he could not disclose the names of the companies.

According to Hodge, the Sun Dome would not have a problem finding a sponsor.

“It’s the second-largest university in the Southeast and the 12th-largest media market in the country. It’s obviously a significant contributor to the economy of Tampa and the whole Bay (area),” Hodge said.

Although Action Sports was given the charge of selling naming rights in September 2005, Richard Reeves, vice president of advertising and marketing for the St. Petersburg Times, was not aware the rights were on the market. One of USF athletics’ major corporate sponsors, the Times places advertising materials above one of the entrances to the Sun Dome.

Attempts to contact president of the Tampa Bay Division of Bright House Networks Kevin Hyman were not successful. The cable company has increased its sponsorship with Sun Dome signage and USF-themed sports programming.

Although Reeves was not aware of the opportunity, he said everyone at the Times would be interested in it.

“If they were selling the naming rights or another thing, then we – depending on the amount of money – might push that anywhere from the publisher of the paper to the board of directors.”

Veit said the Athletic Department knew the process of renaming the Sun Dome could take more than two years when it signed the contract.

“You’re talking about someone making a $300,000 (or) $400,000 commitment over 10 years; that’s why it’s taken so long,” Veit said. “Companies generally don’t make decisions like that in one budget cycle.”

Hodge said he has no concerns that the deal will be complete, despite USF’s fan base, which Hodge said could be a factor in determining the value of the building.

USF men’s basketball team drew an average of 4,163 people to its home games on its way to a record of 7-22 last season, its first in the Big East Conference. Both USF’s attendance and record were last in the league.

Hodge said that although fan base could be a factor, population of a city is a larger determinant of value.

Comparing Tampa’s market with that of Durham, N.C., where Duke University is located, Hodge said despite the small fan base, he is confident the Sun Dome will find a sponsor.

“Duke University’s less than 8,000 students in a town of less than 45,000 people, yeah they sell out their venue every day and they get national exposure, but beyond that, is there that much value in the city of Durham? No. But is there a ton of value for the Sun Dome in a city the size of Tampa? Absolutely.”