|Former names||USF Sun Dome (1980–2018)|
|Location||12499 USF Bull Run Dr|
Tampa, FL 33617
|Owner||University of South Florida|
|Operator||Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties, LLC, a division of Vinik Sports Group, LLC|
|Surface||QuickLock Portable Floor (northern hard maple)|
|Opened||November 29, 1980|
|Construction cost||$12 million|
($51.2 million in 2020 dollars)
|Architect||Barger + Dean Architects, Inc.|
|South Florida Bulls men's basketball (1980–2011, 2012–present) |
South Florida Bulls women's basketball (1980–2011, 2012–present)
South Florida Bulls volleyball (1980–present)
WWE (pro-wrestling) (2021–present)
Yuengling Center (formerly the USF Sun Dome) is an indoor arena on the campus of the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa, Florida. It was built, starting in 1977 and was completed on November 29, 1980. It is located in USF's Athletics District on the southeast side of campus and is home to the South Florida Bulls men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams, as well as USF's commencement ceremonies. It is the fourth-largest basketball arena by capacity in the American Athletic Conference.
The stadium currently hosts the professional wrestling promotion WWE in a residency that began on April 12, 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the promotion broadcasts its television shows and pay-per-views from a behind closed doors set called the WWE ThunderDome, following a previous residency at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field.
Before the Yuengling Center, USF's basketball teams played at various locations on and off campus. The basketball teams first played at Curtis Hixon Hall in downtown Tampa, and later split their home schedule between Curtis Hixon Hall, the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds, and the USF Gymnasium on campus, among others.
By 1975, both the University of South Florida and the University of Florida in Gainesville had decided to build new on-campus indoor sports facilities. The two schools pooled their resources and shared the cost of a basic arena design to stretch limited state funding. The "core unit" of the Sun Dome and UF's O'Connell Center were nearly identical, and they each featured a flexible, inflatable roof made of Teflon and supported by a system of blowers. However, the O'Connell Center included facilities for other sports around the main arena while the Sun Dome as originally built did not. These were added in later expansions.
The $12 million Sun Dome broke ground in November 1977 on formerly open land on the southeast side of campus near Fowler Avenue. Construction was slowed on both the Sun Dome and the O'Connell Center when cracks appeared in precast concrete support beams. The problems were eventually fixed, and the sister facilities were completed within a few weeks of each other in late 1980 – the Sun Dome in November and the O'Connell Center in December.
The first two events at the new arena were a USF men's basketball game against Florida A&M and a concert by Alice Cooper.
In 2000, the original inflatable roof was replaced with a more conventional hard dome and additional facilities for USF indoor sports programs were added around the main arena at a cost of about $8 million (about $12 million in 2020 dollars).
In 2011, USF began a major renovation of the Yuengling Center at a cost of $35.6 million. Among other interior improvements, this renovation reconfigured the seating area to make the facility ADA compliant and added a large center hung scoreboard, a team store, and a new concourse level with concessions and restrooms. On the outside, original exterior concrete was repaired, bricks were added to some portions of the façade, and the entrance gates were improved. This project was completed in April 2012.
In 2017, USF announced that the Sun Dome's management would be taken over by Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, via Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties, LLC. On June 12, 2018, USF announced a 10-year naming rights deal with brewer Yuengling, effective July 1, 2018.
In April 2021, WWE began a long-term residency at Yuengling Center, broadcasting its shows from a behind closed doors set called the WWE ThunderDome; this is due to the COVID-19 pandemic following a previous residency at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field.
The Corral opened in 1995 as the home to the Bulls volleyball team. The Corral spans 11,500 square feet on the west side of the arena with a capacity of up to 1,000 fans. Prior to the opening of The Corral, the volleyball team used the same area as the men's and women's basketball teams for their games.
In addition to USF sporting events, the Yuengling Center hosts USF's commencement ceremonies along with many concerts, shows, and special events.
WWE has hosted several professional wrestling events at the Sun Dome; it hosted Saturday Night's Main Event for the first time in 1985, and hosted the pay-per-view Royal Rumble in 1995 (which notably saw Shawn Michaels become the first person entering at number 1 to win the titular Royal Rumble match by outlasting all 29 of the other participants). On March 24, 2021, WWE announced that it would move its ThunderDome residency—a bubble that it has used to film its weekly programs Raw and SmackDown, as well as pay-per-views, due to the COVID-19 pandemic—to Yuengling Center beginning with the April 12 Raw, following WrestleMania 37 (which was held at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium). The ThunderDome was relocated from Tropicana Field due to the start of the Tampa Bay Rays' 2021 season; as before, programs produced at the arena are produced behind closed doors with no in-person audience. WWE will remain at the Yuengling Center until mid-July when they will resume live touring.
UFC hosted UFC Fight Night: Lauzon vs Stephens at the Sun Dome on February 7, 2009. The Sun Dome also hosted Bellator 72 and 94 in 2012 and 2013 respectively.