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Part of dome floor to be poured late

Talk about last-minute details.

The final section of the Florida Suncoast Dome's floor will be poured Feb. 28, just hours before the first event in the stadium, according to the latest construction schedule.

Vice Mayor Robert Stewart, organizer of the invitation-only black-tie reception at 7 p.m. Feb. 28, sucked in his breath at the news and then put forth his most optimistic face.

"I feel absolutely confident that we will have a grand opening that will be absolutely stunning," Stewart told reporters.

Public Works Director Bill Hargett told members of the Stadium Management Review Committee that all the walls would be finished, the air conditioning will be functioning and everything will be in place for the Feb. 28 event.

"We are very confident," said stadium general manager Jerry Oliver. "What will not be completed, you will not notice."

While all 43,000 seats won't be in place by the grand opening March 3, that won't be necessary. Only about 13,000 tickets have been sold.

Russ Cline, whose company is marketing the stadium, said a last-minute advertising push should generate sales of about 20,000 to 22,000.

"We're fourth and long, but we're going to score," Cline said, reaching for a football metaphor.

The Billy Joel concert scheduled for March 6 is faring better, with about 35,000 tickets sold. Only single seats remain.

Hargett said about 3,563 paved parking spaces and 1,340 spaces in a gravel lot will be available for the grand opening. In addition, shuttle buses will run to the Central Plaza parking lots and to the Bayfront Center and downtown parking garages.