The voice of USF Athletics, Jim Louk, will routinely put down his radio headset and pick up the pen to share his perspective on the history of USF Athletics.
Louk has been broadcasting games for 27 years and is the resident historian in the Athletics Department hallways ... This week he remembers the Sun Dome in Goodbye from an Old Friend.
Goodbye from an Old Friend
The paperwork is done now, so I’ll be going away soon. But before I go, there are some things I’d like you to know about me.
I’m not that old of a guy, actually. I’m 31. There are a lot of new buildings on campus that are younger than me, but I’m not exactly the oldest guy on the block either. That movie actor said it best; it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.
When they built me I had a mirror building about 120 miles to the north. The O’Connell Center in Gainesville is my brother. We used to look alike, but I admit that did change as the years went on.
|Your business space was ready in the fall of 1980
||The beginnings of construction
||The finished product
If you’ve gone to events in me recently, you didn’t see me at my “A” game. I had a great staff trying to keep me at top form, but it was difficult.
I wish you could have seen me when I was newer. I used to be the focal point of USF athletics and one of the best known buildings on campus.
Concerts? I had them all. In the days before forums and amphitheaters, I was the place in Tampa Bay for music. Sinatra was here. Sting. James Taylor. Heart. Pick any ‘80’s or ‘90s group and there’s a good chance I hosted them. I made them sound good too. You should have been here when I did an opera concert with Luciano Pavarotti. Pretty cool.
Special events? Sure. How about an NCAA Basketball Regional in 1983. How about wrestling! Pick any group of letters; WWE, WCW, NWA.…I had a squared circle for every one of them.
Here’s one for you; I hosted a rodeo once! In my prime I could adjust to any setting, any event, or any arena layout. I was busy, and full more often than not.
|"From parts unknown, weight unknown"
||Sometimes you have to give up the zone and just play horse to horse
||The set up for concerts
I watched thousands of high school kids graduate every year. Some of the best high school students I saw again four years later when they graduated from USF.
When I started I had an air supported roof. I think it was just me, the Pontiac Silverdome and the Carrier Dome that had one. Anyway, it was pretty neat. My doors were hard to open but people remembered the rush of air I gave them when they entered. Never did get a center-hung scoreboard for basketball though. Roof wasn’t strong enough. Finally my roof tore in a rainstorm, the basketball floor got ruined, and they sprung for a new hard roof for me.
The Roof Deflation Ticket
I bet you remember me best for USF basketball, don’t you? Boy, I hosted some good players. Dobras, Bradley, Atkins, Kohn, Dickson, Jones….all those players. I had three USF NCAA teams; two by the men and one by the women. I remember back in 1984 I had USF-DePaul right before the first Tampa Super Bowl. DePaul was No. 2 in the nation and James Garner sat in one of my seats that night.
Which reminds me….my seats were all new once, you know. And all the same color by section. They were divided that way to tell you what entrance and exit you should use. Bet you didn’t know that.
Jerry West visited me for a game. And Derek Jeter. Even John Smoltz right near the end. I had them all at one time or another.
If you wanted a basketball court you had to come to me. I worked for years before the Corral was finally added on. Always thought it made me look fat.
The best memories are the people though. That’s what made me successful. This guy Mike LaPan managed me for like 20 years. There were lots of others there, year after year, working hard every day.
Now, my doors are closed, but things are looking up. I’ve got an unbelievable new face. When you come in off Fowler Avenue the Pam and Les Muma practice facility is going to make me look downright pretty. Inside, I might have loge boxes and suites. Me! Can you imagine?
Anyway, I wanted to tell you this stuff now before I left. I sure appreciate all of you over the years. I was always glad to see you, and I always tried hard to make you comfortable.
It’s a new era now though. I wonder if they will change my name.
One thing I know for sure. In less than a year, my doors are going to open again and it’s going to feel like 1980 all over for me. I’m going back to the cutting edge. I’m going to amaze you just the way I amazed those Bulls fans three decades ago. I can’t wait.
And see you soon.
The USF Sun Dome