As you know, this is not a UCF sports blog, and I don’t intend to make it one. However, conference expansion is ongoing and UCF has a chance to make the jump from Conference USA to an Automatic Qualifying (AQ) BCS football conference in the BIG EAST. The BIG EAST is currently the only AQ conference openly pursuing expansion to at least 10 teams (the 8-team conference recently added TCU for 2012). Among the remaining expansion candidates, UCF’s name is always in the discussion as a potential (some say likely) target for the BIG EAST Conference.
Many people around the country are beginning to take notice of what is going on at UCF, given the recent success of the football and basketball programs. The football team finished ranked in the top 20 after winning C-USA and beating Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. The basketball team got off to a hot start, also earning its first top-25 ranking after starting the season 14-0. And most recently, top football recruits from around the country are choosing UCF over traditional BCS AQ teams, citing the unlimited potential to excel here at UCF.
But expansion candidates are evaluated on a number of factors beyond program success. Academics, fan support, TV market, and facilities are also considered. Since this is a blog about construction and development at and around UCF, you can probably guess what the focus of this post is going to be. In this two-part series, we’ll look at the facilities UCF has built in the past 10 years, what’s currently under construction, and what is still in the pipeline for the future.
Brighthouse Networks Stadium
Year Completed: 2007. Capacity: 45,301. After years of playing football 15 miles from campus at the aging Citrus Bowl, UCF built its own stadium on campus. Seating expansion to 56,000 and additional luxury suites are expected within 10 years.
Indoor practice facility (Nicholson Fieldhouse)
Year Completed: 2005. The first of its kind in Florida. Regulation 120-yard field with FieldTurf surface in a climate-controlled building. Other schools are playing catch-up: FSU is building an indoor facility but it won’t be open until June 2012.
Wayne Densch Sports Center
Completed: 2003. This building houses the football offices, as well as the strength & conditioning facilities for all sports. There are already plans to expand this building, which I will cover in the next post.
Year Completed: 2007. Capacity: 10,000. UCF opened its new basketball arena in the middle of Knights Plaza, a mixed-use retail area with restaurants, residence halls, and more. Concerts, commencements, and other large events are also held here. Check out my previous post for more photos: Photo Tour: Knights Plaza & UCF Arena.
Jay Bergman Field
Year Completed: 2001. Capacity: 2,230. New video board was added in 2008, and the viewing deck behind right field was added in 2010. Multi-phase expansion plans are also in the works for “The Berg”, with construction starting very soon. More details in the next post.
UCF Softball Complex
Year Completed: 2006. Capacity: 600. The UCF Softball Complex sits right across the street from Brighthouse Stadium. It houses offices, batting cages, training room, lounges, and conference rooms.
Track and Soccer Complex
Year Completed: 1991. Capacity: 600. Even though it was only built 20 years ago, it is one of UCF’s oldest facilities. Track surface was replaced in 2004, and several small improvements were made in 2008. Construction just started on the multi-phase expansion project, which will bring seating capacity to over 2,000.
Rowing, Tennis and Golf also have beautiful facilities. Check out the official website for more information on these facilities.
It’s clear that UCF has made the commitment to bring its athletics facilities to the next level. It could be argued that what we have here in Orlando is already on par with many top-level athletics programs around the country. But there’s still a lot of work to do.
My next post will highlight what’s currently under construction and what is in the planning stages. Hitt, Tribble, and the rest of the administration are determined to make UCF a household name when it comes to top-level athletics, and it looks like they are on the right track so far.