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Sun Dome amenities unveiled as completion nears

When the Sun Dome reopens its doors for USF commencement ceremonies in May, students may not believe theyre in the same building.

The facility, which first opened in 1980, is nearing the completion of an extensive $35.64 million renovation from private funds that saw the building gutted and refilled with new equipment from top to bottom. Basically all that remains from the old facility are the exterior walls and roof.

The Sun Dome has been an iconic building on this campus from some time, USF Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Doug Woolard said. Again, it will become the iconic building on this campus and one we can all be proud of when we open it next month. … When I accepted this position (in 2004), this building was tired at that point. It was really worn out. It had outlived its infrastructures.

The new version of the Sun Dome is built to last, with some of the most unique features in college basketball.

The main entrance has moved from the southeast corner to the southwest corner, allowing easier access from classrooms campus and more available parking. The new entrance will include a ticket office and team retail store that will not only operate on event days, but also on non-event days. The team benches have moved from the north side of the court to the south side.

A student entrance on the northwest corner of the building, near Champions Choice dining hall, opens into a student section on the west baseline. From there, students can make their way down to the floor and into the 1,500-square- foot Student Club under the stands, which features couches, televisions, refreshments and music while students wait for tipoff.

Fans in the student section will be nearest the visiting teams bench, meaning opponents will have to play offense and shoot toward the student body in the second half, a choice that USF staff made along with Populous, the architecture firm that designed the new interior.

The new Sun Dome will also include a roughly 6,000-square-foot Arena Club located 10 rows away from the court that offers a stand-up bar facing the event floor and a full liquor license. On the south side of the court, 10 seating boxes will allow fans to order food and drinks via iPad to be delivered to their seats.

Basketball coach Stan Heath said the facility upgrade makes him happy he chose to coach at USF five years ago, when the program was struggling, he said.

I cant tell you how many coaches from five years ago told me, Man, thats a tough job. I dont know if you want to take that job, he said. But now, (theyre saying), Man, youve got a great job. You live in a great environment, youve got great facilities, great support.

The second level seats in the old Sun Dome were retractable, meaning when the rows were expanded the space behind them was useless because of cross struts and bars. In the new Sun Dome, the second level seats are permanent and the space beneath accommodates a full concourse. Students will have a dedicated concession stand with student-friendly pricing, according to Scott Glaser, associate director of Athletics for Facilities and Event Management.

The concourse will feature seven concession stands with four TVs apiece that show digital menus as well as game feeds from the event floor. The south side of the concourse will also feature a visual history of key dates in the history of USF and the Sun Dome.

The court is brand new and uses the same type of wood and basket stanchions the men and womens team practice on in the adjoining Muma Practice Facility. The four video boards from the old Sun Dome are being reused in the upper corners of the arena, with four additional boards making up a four-sided, center-hung scoreboard.

Global Spectrum, an event management company, was hired by the University of March 20 to manage the Sun Dome and book performers. Global Spectrum also manages college arenas at Miami, South Carolina, Southern California, Central Florida and Temple, as well as professional sporting arenas such as the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Im really proud and excited about the partnership were starting with the University, the Athletics Department and Sun Dome, Inc., Trent Merritt of Global Spectrum said. Were one of the fastest-growing private event management companies in the industry. We manage about 114 venues throughout the U.S., Canada, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

With the mens basketball team set to raise an NCAA Tournament banner this year, the new Sun Domes debut couldnt have better timing.

Go to the Oracle’s Multimedia page to see a photo gallery of the renovations.