Sun Dome delays will impact Big East basketball games
USF's $35-million renovation of the Sun Dome has likely been pushed back to June due to "procedural" delays, and those delays will force the Bulls' men's and women's basketball teams to play part of their 2012 Big East conference schedule off campus, executive associate athletic Bill McGillis said Monday.
USF's renovation of its 30-year-old arena -- home to USF basketball and volleyball as well as a busy schedule of concerts and other events -- was conditionally approved by the state's Board of Governors on March 25, though that approval required that USF's foundation to set aside $20-million as a backup guaranteee for the $26-million loan financing much of the project.
Six weeks later, USF has moved its personnel and ticket offices from the Sun Dome into temporary trailers, but construction itself has not begun. McGillis said the logistical process of "dotting i's and crossing t's" is continuing with meetings with architects and builders, and that the renovation itself is not in jeopardy.
"The process is moving forward and we don't have any reason to think it won't happen," McGillis said.
The opening of the renovated arena, which USF officials had once hoped would be in place for fall graduation in December, has now been pushed back "into February," McGillis said, meaning USF will have to play perhaps half or more of its Big East schedule off campus. McGillis said as many Big East games as possible will be played at the St. Pete Times Forum downtown, which can accommodate larger crowds and helps minimize the inconvenience for season-ticket holders.
USF officials had already been working to find off-campus venues to host nonconference games, with preliminary talks with the Times Forum, the University of Tampa's Bob Martinez Center and the Lakeland Center. USF averaged an announced crowd of 4,620 fans in its eight Big East men's games at the Sun Dome last season, with an announced 10,051 on hand when the Bulls faced Syracuse at the Times Forum.
USF's women's team could play off-campus as well, but could also stay on campus by playing on the perimeter of the Sun Dome in The Corral, where USF's volleyball team plays its home matches.