TAMPA — Five years after getting a new look, the USF Sun Dome is getting new management.
In a Monday afternoon news conference inside a Dome lounge area, the school announced it has signed a five-year agreement with a group controlled by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik to manage and operate the facility.
The same group, Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties, entered a 10-year multimedia-rights partnership with USF two weeks ago. Though a different entity from the Vinik-controlled organization that operates the Lightning and Amalie Arena, its objective will be similar.
Albeit on a mildly smaller scale. Seating capacity at the Sun Dome, which underwent a $36 million renovation in 2012, is 10,411. Amalie holds 21,500 for concerts and 19,092 for hockey.
"We see this as a great opportunity in the event business to operate the Sun Dome, with the goal of delivering more events, not only for the students, the alumni, the faculty and staff, but for the greater Tampa Bay community," said Steve Griggs, CEO of TBEP.
"There's a place in the event industry for this venue, a 3,000-9,000 seat venue (when configured for concerts) that we intend to fill that fits the exact niche of this building."
For the customer, that likely means more events annually.
The Sun Dome, which hosts roughly 120 non-USF sporting events a year, could attract more up-and-coming musical acts, classic bands, comics and popular novelty entertainers such as the Harlem Globetrotters.
Self-managed upon its opening in 1980, the Sun Dome has been run in recent years by Spectra, a Comcast Spectacor subsidiary. Its contract expires at the end of June, prompting USF to entertain a number of bid proposals for new management.
"(TBEP) won us over by their ability, I think, to bring more shows here along with just a customer service that is, frankly in my review, second to none," USF athletic director Mark Harlan said.
"So not only is it about the booking, it's about how we present our shows — and that includes our (USF) games."
The next potential noticeable change for the Dome: an expanded name.
As part of its multimedia-rights partnership, TBEP receives the right to secure naming rights for the Sun Dome, and receives 35 percent of USF's annual naming rights licensing net profit, according to the contract.
Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] or (813) 226-3350. Follow @ TBTimes_Bulls.