The sounds of Sir Elton John filled the USF Sun Dome Friday night, in the first big concert at the arena since it underwent a $35 million renovation.
There are certainly bigger venues in the area, but we're told Elton John prefers a more intimate setting.
Captain Fantastic brought his magic to the mighty Dome, running through a litany of his greatest hits and christening the newly re-opened structure.
"He just comes in and he just rocks it for about three hours, it's incredible what he does," said Sun Dome General Manager Trent Merritt.
They started planning for and courting Sir Elton a year ago.
"Certainly the Tampa Bay Times Forum at about 20,000, is a little larger, as well as the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheater," said Merritt. "We're about 10,000, and we got just about every single seat filled."
The Sun Dome opened in 1980, and the building has gone through a mega-million dollar transformation since then.
"It's not a renovation, it's a new building from top to bottom," said USF Athletic Director Doug Woolard. "All new infrastructure, all new seating, some great fan amenities, and it's really, the Sun Dome has returned."
"We kind of joke it was about an 18-month project that got pretty much finished-up in about 11," Merritt said.
"He puts on one of the best shows I've ever seen in my life," said Mitch Elengold, who lives in Austin, Texas. He flew in to Fort Lauderdale to pick up his mother Sandy, who's never seen Elton in a live concert. Elengold has seen John hundreds of times, including one stint at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where he saw the artist seven nights in a row!
He drove his mother five hours to Tampa.
"I said, Ma', you're 78, he's 65, we gotta get you there, so here she is!," Elengold said.
"Yes, he's a very good entertainer! And I enjoy him when I saw him on TV a few times, but I just can't see spending that kind of money," said Sandy Elengold.
Mitch Elengold paid $500 for their pair of tickets, but there were cheaper seats going for a under $100.
"When I was about 17, I saw him at a free concert in Central Park and then a couple years ago I saw him locally here with Billy Joel," said Diane Becker of Pinellas Park. "It was crazy, but it was unbelievably memorable, it was like the best thing I've ever done in my life. I just love Elton John."
We met people from all over Florida, some who had driven more than five hours to get to Tampa. Almost all of them said they're staying at hotels nearby, so the city got a nice little post-RNC boost as well.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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