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Sun Dome renovations funding approved

Despite recent state budget cuts, the University’s on-campus arena for athletics, concerts and commencements will still get a significant facelift.

USF’s Board of Trustees (BOT) voted without discussion Wednesday to approve up to $35.6 million in the internal funding of the Sun Dome’s renovations.

The decision to approve the Board Finance and Audit Workgroup’s suggestion to fund the restoration of the 30-year-old building came after University officials decided the money necessary to complete the renovations would take too long to raise through outside sources.

USF spokesman Michael Hoad said state budget cuts for infrastructure, announced last week, came as little solace in hopes of attaining outside revenue. “It’s part of the calculation,” Hoad said. “If we waited for the state to give us money, we would be waiting a long time – probably too long. If we spent the time to get outside financing, it would take too long.”

Planned renovations include modifying the existing seating and two entrances to the building; adding concessions and restrooms at the Concourse level; adding a scoreboard; restoring the exterior; and updating electrical systems to meet the needs of NCAA Division I requirements for lighting and broadcast.

Hoad said the renovations to the 250,000 square-foot building are expected to extend its life by another 30 years.

BOT chairman John Ramil said during a workshop that meeting the costs of the renovations would not exceed $35.6 million. The USF Foundation will initially provide $10 million, and the Athletics department will provide additional funds, but Hoad said the Sun Dome’s future revenue will eventually pay back the costs of construction.

“The renovated center is expected to generate sufficient revenues to fully repay all the funding that is utilized,” he said. “It can be rented out to make money, and that pays back in construction. We need the Sun Dome back up and running. It’s critical for a whole variety of things, including commencement, student activities and athletics.”

Until the Sun Dome is complete, activities typically housed there will be relocated. Spring graduation was moved to the St. Pete Times Forum and the Tampa Convention Center after renovations started following the completion of the 2010-11 basketball season.

Jeremy Sharpe, assistant athletics director for communications, said that though the University’s preference is to relocate basketball games to the Forum, the official venues will be announced with the game schedule later this summer.

“Whatever challenges may arise, we feel that it’s worth it in the long run and for the good of the campus,” he said.

Sharpe said the Sun Dome renovations are expected to be complete by April 2012.