When USF announced in early March that a $35 million complete renovation of the Sun Dome had been approved, most wondered when demolition would begin. Construction was slated to begin almost six weeks ago, but as of today construction has not begun. First there was a provision at the Board of Governors meeting in Tallahassee in late March that stipulated USF must keep $20 million in an account to guarantee the loan.
Now there is another procedural delay that, according to Greg Auman, will force USF basketball to play most if not all home games away from the Sun Dome this year. USF has been in contact with the University of Tampa, the St. Pete Times Forum, and the Lakeland Center for use of their facilities for the first half of the schedule, but it looks like Athletics will have to talk about the remaining games as well.
UT's Bob Martinez Sports Center looks like the preferred destination of the three for the non-conference schedule. The Martinez Center has a capacity of just over 3400 seats, and given some of the sparse crowds when the likes of Liberty and Georgia Southern show up, it should actually look like a full gym. The St. Pete Times Forum certainly seems like the main option for conference play, and the Lakeland Center is a big back-up in case either option is unavailable. USF played Bethune-Cookman a while back at the Lakeland Center, and Greg Auman reported that the attendance that night was a sparse 768 that night.
After today's announcement, I wonder why Athletics even started the Sun Dome restoration in the first place without the funding and the formalities taken care of. I know that McGillis said everything is still on track, but it looks second rate when you announce the start of a construction project and almost two months later you still haven't started.
I'm almost ready to call the 2011-2012 season "The Lost Year". Nothing like going from arena to arena without a real home. I guess we'll now know what it was like to be a fan of those first USF teams before the Sun Dome was built.