July 29, 2014

University Athletics

Home Field

UCF makes a push for its own on-campus football stadium.

Ken Ibold | 3/1/2005
The University of Central Florida's continued march toward the big leagues is under scrutiny as it studies the feasibility of adding that most necessary of campus amenities: A football stadium.

The UCF Golden Knights football team will join Conference USA next season, in which eight of the conference's 12 teams play at an on-campus stadium. UCF, like Tulane, Memphis and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, plays its "home" games off campus.

UCF officials envision a 45,000- to 50,000-seat, $40-million steel structure on UCF land east of the UCF Arena. It would be funded by donations, ticket sales, concessions, skybox rentals and advertising. It could also be ready in time for the 2006 football season.

"The bottom line is this: We think this merits further study," UCF President John Hitt told the UCF Board of Trustees at a January meeting where the study was approved.

Since the Golden Knights' inaugural season in 1979, UCF has played its home games at the Florida Citrus Bowl just west of downtown Orlando, a 69-year-old stadium that was last renovated in 1989. Last season, UCF paid the Citrus Bowl about $71,000 per game to cover maintenance. With this charge, every game lost money even after income from ticket sales, parking and an average of $80,000 in food and beverage concessions per game.

The UCF Knights now play at the Citrus Bowl, some 15 miles away from campus.

"We want what's best for the school, but we like having the team," says Allen Johnson, a UCF alumnus and director of Centroplex, the organization that oversees the Citrus Bowl operation. "Having them here won't affect the pending renovations, but having them play here makes it a little easier to stay on top of the field to keep it in major bowl condition."

However, proponents of a UCF stadium say the issue goes beyond the finances and into student life. Locating the stadium on campus would mean about 15,000 students could walk to the game from their homes. An on-campus stadium would allow a place for students and alumni to rally together in an environment tailored to "their" team spirit.

"Many of our students, alumni and strong supporters have told us over the years that they want a stadium here at UCF," Hitt said in announcing the plan. "An on-campus stadium could help us create more of a collegiate football experience for the students and fans, foster new traditions and build a stronger community for the university."

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