Last night's 66-50 loss to Pittsburgh marked the final game of USF basketball that will be played in the Sun Dome this season. This wouldn't be much of an occasion, especially with March Madness coming up, except that USF is planning to do massive renovations (around $35M worth) to the Sun Dome this off-season. These renovations are likely much needed: the stadium is 30 years old, making it older than the 21-year-old Tropicana Field (and we know how the Rays feel about the Trop), and the stadium has been used heavily for basketball, volleyball, concerts, and many more random events.
According to Greg Auman from the St. Petersburg Times, the renovations will include:
...reconfiguring the 10,000-seat arena, including filling in the corners of the lowest bowl and establishing permanent seating on the second level, which allows for "club rooms and lounge boxes," as well as a concourse and concessions behind the seating. The new plan also includes a center-hung scoreboard, with modifications to the entrances and restoration of the exterior concrete. Such upgrades would "allow the Sun Dome to be at par and competitive with other NCAA Division I and Big East college basketball arenas," according to the RFP.
In honor of the Sun Dome, the writers over at Voodoo Five (the SB Nation blog about the USF Bulls) have put together a collection of their favorite memories from the Sun Dome. There are many fun stories and I highly recommend checking them out, but the thing that struck me the most about them is that in many of them, the atmosphere from the games was more important than the actual game itself. "The game wasn't all that memorable, but..."
And that's why I think, even with all the modern conveniences that make it so much easier and less stressful to watch a sports game from the comfort of your home, you can never replace the thrill of being at a game in person. You can't replace the atmosphere with surround sound. You can't replace the other fans with Twitter. You can't experience the game in the same way as you would if you were there, and you miss out on the many small, special moments that can turn a great game into a lasting memory.
So here's to the Sun Dome. May its renovations be swift and successful!