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Some Elton John fans' seats missing seats in renovated Sun Dome

TAMPA — A seating mishap at the newly renovated University of South Florida Sun Dome had some Elton John fans singing the blues Friday night, and venue organizers considering refunds.

About 30 fans who showed up at Section 204 found out their seats were scratched as a result of multimillion dollar renovations this winter.

As organizers scrambled to accommodate the line of frustrated fans by finding alternative seats, the concert played on.

Some ended up benefitting with better seats, but others said they weren't pleased with their new assignments and wanted their money back. About two rows were affected.

"This is fraud," said Christine Murphy, a 48-year-old medical coding supervisor from Tarpon Springs. "They sold me a product that doesn't exist. That's fraud."

Murphy, who had seen Elton John perform once before, said her $315.35 seats were in Row L.

"The section started at Row P," she said. "There was no A through O."

She said she was referred to customer service and offered floor seats, but she returned when she discovered her new row was so far from the stage she couldn't even see the top of Elton John's head.

"I paid a lot of money to see Elton John. I could have put on a CD to hear him," she said.

Trent Merritt, general manager at the Sun Dome, said Sunday that officials were considering a refund for some fans.

"Any time you have 10,000 people in a building for a show like that, there's going to be some customer service issues," he said.

The Sun Dome's $35 million renovation, which ended in April, eliminated two rows. The change didn't pose a problem at two previous events, but the crowds weren't as large as the one at the Elton John concert.

A growing line at the customer service window made the experience all the more frustrating.

"A couple of people were at the counter negotiating their tickets for 20 minutes," said Paula Berry, 32, a high school teacher from Tampa.

When Berry and her husband finally got to the window, the harried customer service reps already knew about the problem in Section 204 and quickly gave them new seats in Section 213. But they had to sit one seat apart from each other.

"My husband's favorite song is Bennie and the Jets, and we had to listen to it standing in line," Berry said. "That was the heartbreaking part about it."

She said she hopes the Sun Dome works out its kinks before her graduation from USF with a master's degree in education this December.

"When you invest that kind of money and time you want to know that you're going to have a positive experience," she said. "As of right now, I wouldn't attend another show at the Sun Dome."

Times staff writer Rich Shopes contributed to this report.

Some Elton John fans' seats missing seats in renovated Sun Dome 09/16/12 [Last modified: Sunday, September 16, 2012 10:33pm]
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