Tampa, Florida -- On paper, the tremendous changes to the USF Sun Dome are a "renovation," but in reality, it's a whole new arena.
Contractors took much of the more than 30-year old building down to its bare walls before launching into a rebuilding effort that has the arena rivaling any college basketball venue in America.
10 News reporter Grayson Kamm took viewers inside the arena live during The Morning Show on Friday. The public will get to see the building first-hand for the first time at a ribbon cutting on May 1st.
Bright new lighting now fills the building and shines down on around 10,000 brand new green seats. The lights are refreshing, compared to the dark, dingy feel of the old Sun Dome.
One section of the seating leads up into a private club-level section, with access to high-end concessions and amenities. For the first time in the country, the arena also features a student club seating area.
The ten luxury boxes feel dramatically different from ones in most other arenas. They aren't tucked up at the top of the seating bowl, and they aren't closed off from the action.
Instead, the private party areas are just seven rows up from the court, and they're open -- enclosed by only low walls, and not by glass or concrete.
The Sun Dome now has a concourse, which is a big change from the old way fans got around the place, sliding in and out of confusing tunnels.
And instead of the tiny carts and cubbyholes where concessions were sold before, the venue now has broad, open concession stands. It completes the new feel of a full-fledged arena, instead of the beefed-up gymnasium of the past.
Contractor Skanska says it's taken 126 miles of electrical wire to pull it all off -- enough to stretch from the Sun Dome to Kennedy Space Center. And three-quarters of the work on the $36 million project was done by local workers from the Tampa Bay area.
The new USF Sun Dome will be open to all after its ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, May 1st. Its first event will be USF graduation, held May 4th and 5th.
Grayson Kamm, 10 News