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Oldies, goodies to open stadium

Tampa Bay's elders can give their kids a quick course in rock 'n' roll history March 4, when B.J. Thomas and the Association headline the Florida Suncoast Dome's eight-hour open house. While the seniors-circuit rockers hold down center stage during the last day of the indoor stadium's opening festivities, organizers of the event have lined up non-stop entertainment around the headliners, everything from a local Polynesian music group to Orlando Magic basketball stars.

Famous or not, the entertainers should stay busy.

"We're expecting in excess of 100,000 people for this day, so come on, we'll be ready for you," said Dick Dailey, co-chairman of the committee organizing the day's events.

Dailey and other members of the Stadium Management Review Committee met Thursday afternoon to take one final look at the carefully laid plans for next week's grand opening festivities for the $110-million Florida Suncoast Dome.

The organizers announced that singer Kenny Rogers has agreed to allow guests attending the gala March 3 to bring their cameras, both still and video.

"That's very significant because there may not be another one or two events in the dome's history when that will be allowed," said Bob Rose, regional marketing director for the private firm that manages and markets the new stadium.

Rose said Rogers understood the historical significance of the dome's gala opening. From a practical standpoint, it would have been difficult to explain to the moms, dads, friends and spouses in the audience that they could not take pictures of the home-grown cast of thousands of dancers and musicians who will perform before Rogers' performance.

Next week will be busy indeed for the stadium's managers. A black-tie reception for invited guests comes Wednesday night, followed one night later by a dinner hosted by Gov. Bob Martinez to honor professional baseball in Florida. Friday is a rehearsal day for the big gala with Rogers and the dancers, which comes Saturday evening, followed by Sunday's free open house.

About $820,000 has been raised to help pay for all the festivities, Rose said, with most of it coming from private sources.

For the open house, the doors to the new stadium open at 11:30 a.m. March 4, a Sunday, with opening ceremonies scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m.

Between them, B.J. Thomas and the Association have had six hits, organizers said. Thomas probably is best known for his 1970 hit, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, which served as the theme song for the popular movie western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He also scored big with (Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song, I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, Hooked on a Feeling and Rock and Roll Lullaby.

The six-member Association is probably best known for the pop standards Never My Love, Windy and Cherish, which were all No. 1 hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The group achieved considerable success with Along Comes Mary, Everything That Touches You and Six Man Band.