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USF eyeing arenas for nonconference hoops games

With the Sun Dome expected to be under renovations until December or so, USF's athletic department has already contacted three local venues as the Bulls search for a combination of site to host nonconference men's and women's basketball games.

USF has about six or seven home men's games and likely four women's basketball games to relocate, though the women's team could wind up playing their games in The Corral. That's the home court for USF volleyball and a frequent practice site inside the Sun Dome, though it's still not certain that The Corral will be available for play during the renovations.

For USF's men, two of the three venues contacted by the Bulls are in downtown Tampa: The St. Pete Times Forum, which has hosted NCAA Tournament games, as well as the SEC and ACC tournaments in recent years; and the Bob Martinez Sports Center on the University of Tampa campus. USF associate athletic director Barry Clements has a meeting next week with officials from the Lakeland Center as well.

While the Bulls may play a single game in Lakeland as a gesture to USF's campus in Lakeland, the goal is to relocate the nonconference home games with as little inconvenience as possible to season ticket holders. UT's Martinez Center can hold about 3,600 fans, which would cover what USF has generally been able to draw to the Sun Dome for nonconference games. To use that arena, however, USF must have dates that do not conflict with UT's men's and women's basketball teams, as well as the Spartans volleyball team, which also uses the same court.

The Lakeland Center, which can seat 5,500 for basketball, has hosted the state's high school basketball championship and the NCAA Division II tournament. It's unlikely the Bulls would draw that much -- USF played Bethune-Cookman in Lakeland in 2004 and the game had an announced attendance of 768 fans. The Times Forum is the largest and logically most expensive option for USF and as such would be a suitable option if the renovations encounter unforeseen delays and force the Bulls to move Big East games off campus -- USF played Syracuse in the Times Forum in February and the game drew an announced crowd of 10,051.

Posted by Greg Auman at 10:58:38 am on May 04, 2011