Proposed athletics village is a collegiate game changer

Spring break may look a little different for Knights in the years to come – as most students usually head to one of Florida’s many beaches or water parks, the University of Central Florida’s main campus may soon become its own destination attraction.

Over the course of a few months, plans were drawn up in an attempt to change the face of UCF’s Athletics department. The idea is aimed to make UCF the best in the nation among all Division I universities.

“We think our niche is phenomenal weather – we’ve got a beautiful campus and this awesome recruiting base here in Central Florida,” UCF Director of Athletics Danny White said. “We’re really trying to accentuate all those things and create what we feel will be an Athletics Village that’s as good as anyone’s in the country.”

At a press conference held Feb. 12, White unveiled plans for a $25 million initiative that will feature a complete overhaul on the athletics facilities on campus and will be entirely funded by donations.

Ken Dixon, Central Florida businessman and 1975 UCF alum, boosted the development by gifting a donation of $5 million, the largest donation UCF has ever received.

“I think [the Athletic Village] needs to be 100 percent donor supported and not affect students or their tuition,” graduate student Jennifer Katz said.

UCF athletes of all varieties will benefit from the brand new facilities, which will be dedicated to the health and wellness of the students.

“I am very excited about the new upgrades to the athletic center,” former UCF quarterback Kyle Israel said. “It shows a continued commitment by our administration and board of trustees to athletics.”

Plans for the facilities project include $5 million in enhancements to the Kenneth G. Dixon Athletics Village, with $2 million going to the Football Operations Expansion/Athletics HQ, $2 million to the Baseball Expansion/Renovation and $1 million to the Garvey Center for student-athlete nutrition.

“The facilities vision is something we’ve worked on for the last several months,” White said. “We’re excited with how it positions us regionally and nationally in college athletics.”

Other improvements will include:
•UCF Basketball Excellence Center
•UCF Athletics Plaza and Promenade
•UCF Student-Athlete Recovery Cove
•Nicholson Fieldhouse Enhancements
•Video Boards at UCF Baseball, Softball, Soccer and Track Complexes
•UCF Track and Field/Soccer Complex Enhancements

The hope is the improvements made will provide UCF coaches with additional tools for recruiting new student athletes, however White knows the athletes themselves are the campuses biggest recruiters. White said he believes upon its completion, the Athletics Village will create the most unique student athlete experience in the country.

“Recruiting is the name of the game in college athletics,” Israel said. “When athletes are deciding where to go, they are looking at all aspects of a university. It is important to continue building and adding to the athletics complex if we want to compete with power five programs for recruits. The pool and lazy river are a nice added addition.”

The Recovery Cove holds an intended spot adjacent to the football practice fields and the Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership. The proposed area will feature a lazy river, pool, mini-golf course, cabana area and beach volleyball sand court, all surrounded by palm trees and much more according to the visual concepts that have been drawn up thus far.

“I am concerned about that area being less family friendly, but as a current donor I want to be able to take my kids to enjoy it before games,” Katz said.

According to White, other possibilities for the Recovery Cove include being rented out privately for corporate events or even benefiting fans during game days. Such ideas are still a large topic of ongoing discussions.

“We have a great stadium and arena, and the proximity of it all is awesome, we can tie all together and really make a showpiece.” White said.

The timeline for the completion of the Athletics Village has not been set yet and will be dependent on donors.

The goal is to continue changing the university’s face of athletics with a steady pace of construction aimed at propelling UCF into the nation’s premier Division I university.

Originally published March 14, 2017