Sun Dome close to getting title sponsor
The Sun Dome, USF's on-campus basketball arena for the past 27 years, is moving closer to a major makeover, starting with its name.
Action Sports Media, brought in last year to help secure naming rights for the arena, is deep in negotiations with Academic Financial Services, a Tampa-based education financial lender, on a sponsorship agreement expected to exceed $500,000 annually for at least five years.
"It's something I've wanted to do," said Wayne Morgan, the 36-year-old CEO of AFS, which employs about 275 people and has its headquarters on Waters Avenue. "It's still a maybe, because we're still in negotiations, but I want to brand us in the community, and this is a different angle for us to get to our students."
Morgan said he hasn't decided on a name for the Sun Dome, but it would involved his company's full name, so by the start of basketball season in November, the Bulls could be playing home games in Academic Financial Services Arena, or something along those lines.
AFS has been a sponsor of the Lightning and Devil Rays for the past two seasons and signed a deal last week with the Tampa Bay Sports Commission for marketing in all of their events. Action Sports Media provided USF with $2-million in video scoreboards last year in exchange for the rights to broker sponsorships in the arena. A majority of the money from a title sponsorship agreement would go to USF, which can then use the new revenues to finance proposed upgrades to the arena.
Tom Veit, general manager for Action Sports Media in Tampa, said the USF agreement's annual value will exceed the 12-year, $5.5-million agreement Action Sports negotiated five years ago for the Colonial Center, the basketball arena at the University of South Carolina. Action Sports has a relationship with USF for another nine years, and naming rights could be extended longer with university approval, but it's unlikely the Bulls would want to lock themselves in for a long term, knowing success in the Big East would elevate the value of the arena's name.
USF athletic director Doug Woolard identified the Sun Dome as part of a massive upgrade to USF's athletic facilities, which could include the addition of a practice facility on one side, a new facade and additional seating and new luxury suites. Once an agreement is reached, USF athletics could set up bonding for the entire amount to help set the construction process in motion.