TAMPA — A $36 million upgrade at the Sun Dome seems to be paying off.
Venues Today magazine has ranked the University of South Florida arena second in the state for centers its size in terms of gross ticket sales and attendance.
It's the second straight year the Sun Dome landed in the second spot, below only Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. The ranking reflects a slew of big-name concerts that have played the campus venue since the 2012 overhaul.
“The renovation touches everything from more comfortable seating to better environmental control and new concession stands,” said Jessica Boudevin, acting managing editor for the industry publication. “It's made it a much better experience for patrons coming in as well as for promoters and others looking to book the arena.”
The building was gutted in 2012, leaving only the main walls and ceiling, and everything within that superstructure was replaced. Ten suites, newer and better bathrooms, and several clubs were added.
The Sun Dome hosted Imagine Dragons, Fall Out Boy, The Lumineers, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the Avett Brothers, Sigur Ros and other acts in the 12 months before March 31, the period in which Venues Today compiles its “Florida Top Stops” chart. The arena is listed in the category of 10,001 to 15,000 capacity.
Trent Merritt, who oversees the Sun Dome for Global Spectrum, a Philadelphia-based arena manager, credited USF with spending the money for improvements and with giving Global Spectrum the freedom to pursue shows it thinks will succeed.
“They allow us to do what we can,” he said. “They really support us and allow us to be aggressive in bringing shows in, and I think you can see the results.”
Boudevin said in addition to the physical improvements to the building, the Sun Dome also features tech upgrades such as a mobile ticketing app, fan-friendly social media platforms and an overhaul of its website.
“That's really helped drive ticket sales as well,” she said.
Although the Huntington Beach, California-based magazine excludes ticket sales from tenant teams — USF men's and women's basketball in this case — Brian Siegrist, the university's associate director of athletics for communications, said the Bulls have benefited from the upgrade.
Siegrist also noted the benefits from the adjacent new Muma Center athletics practice complex.
“I think everyone here considers the combination of the Muma Center and the Sun Dome to rank right there among the best collegiate basketball facilities in the country,” he said.