TAMPA — As if the Tampa Bay concert landscape weren't competitive enough, the newly renovated USF Sun Dome made a major statement Thursday, announcing Elton John as its "grand opening" act on Sept. 14.
After undergoing $35.6 million in considerable refurbishment — nicer seats, a center-hung scoreboard, a Team Bulls store and first-of-its-kind student club — the 10,000-plus-seat indoor venue will be "a lot more" aggressive in its pursuit of big name entertainment acts, said director of marketing Sara Webster.
That's great news for music fans. The Sun Dome's unique capacity (10,411 for basketball games, 11,000 for concerts) should help draw acts away from Orlando, Tampa Bay's biggest competitor in the state. It will also intensify the dogfight between local concert venues, including the Tampa Bay Times Forum, 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre and, to some degree, Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Mahaffey Theater and the Straz Center.
The original Sun Dome cost $12 million to build and first opened its doors in 1980. (First concert? Alice Cooper!) But time had been tough on the old joint, which previously looked, at its very best, like a really nice high school gym (complete with all the odors that go with).
But this is a brand new, and rather lovely, Sun Dome. The Fresh Music Festival, featuring Keith Sweat and Doug E. Fresh, will be the first official gig at the "new" place (on July 7). Other acts previously announced include Florence + the Machine (Sept. 25) the King's Men (Oct. 2) and country star Eric Church.
But Elton is the big show-off booking for Global Spectrum, the venue management company in charge. The Rocket Man had played the Sun Dome on four other dates: Nov. 17-18, 1984; Sept. 21, 1986; Sept. 11, 1988. The 65-year-old icon last played Tampa in 2009, at the Times Forum.
Tickets for Elton John go on sale June 15. Prices range $39.50-$139.50 and will be available through Ticketmaster.com or at the Sun Dome's box office, toll-free 1-800-745-3000.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected]