Bright House Networks Stadium is a five-year old stadium on the campus of the University of Central Florida. In the interest of full disclosure, let me admit to you that I am a graduate of the school and have on and off been a season ticket holder for the last 15 years or so. So I bring a little different perspective than other venues I’ve been to where I have no particular affinity for the team or any prior knowledge of the venue. I know the history of both the school and the surrounding area around the stadium and also the previous UCF football venue, the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Having stated this, I thought of another way I could make this review a little bit different than the typical reviews we do here at Stadium Journey. It just so happened that UCF had two home games in one. One was a day game at 12:00pm on Saturday against the Missouri Tigers of the SEC. On Thursday night at 8:00pm, the Knights played a conference game against the East Carolina Pirates. So what I will do is compare the two so that if you did want to visit the stadium, you might be better informed on when to go as well.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
At the stadium they have all the typical ball park fare plus a few extras such as quesadillas, pizza, frozen lemonade, and other things such as giant chocolate chip cookies. They even have vendors walking around selling big cups of sweet tea. That'll let you know you're in the south. The prices at the concession stands are nothing outrageous, pretty typical for a stadium ($3.50 hot dogs, $4 burgers, $3 Power Ade and water).
Here's where it gets tricky. You can't beat the pregame atmosphere. The tailgate parties are actually in the middle of the campus. They are everywhere you look all over the campus, with lots of cooking out, drinking beers, cornhole, football tossing, and pretty girls in short shorts and tank tops.
But then you go into the stadium and there are empty seats all over the place. The fans who are there are very passionate. The students are about as rowdy as any student section in the country. But there just aren't enough of them. UCF is a large school. It is second in enrollment only to Arizona State. So why can't they sell out the football games? The sentiment among the fans is because they have a coach, George O'Leary, who has been there for nine years and has a .500 record. It seems to have created a lot of apathy in the community.
I went to two games for the purposes of this review. One was a 12:00 game on Saturday. The other was an 8:00 game on Thursday. The stadium is in Orlando, FL which if you have ever been to Disney World, you know is about two degrees cooler that hell in the middle of the day, even in September. The Saturday game was HOT!. It was so hot that much of the crowd quit watching the game and stayed in the concourse level to stay in the shade. This made the stands look even more empty.
The Thursday game was a gorgeous evening if you like spectacular lightning shows in the background. The temperature was perfect. It did rain a little but not enough to get you wet. Late in the game there was a cool breeze that actually got a little chilly. But the stadium was again about half empty which takes away from the game experience a bit.
What I like to do is park in one of the parking garages right off of University Avenue and walk to the stadium. It is a bit of a long walk so I like to arrive early, usually about two hours prior to kickoff. The UCF campus is as beautiful as any campus you'll ever visit. The buildings are new, and the décor around the campus is great. When you walk to the stadium, you can stop off at the Student Union on your way. At the SU, they have places to eat such as Subway, Burger King, Sbarro's Pizza, a Mexican Grille, and there is a sports bar in there as well called Wackadoo's. So you can do kind of an indoor tailgate thing in there, even go drink some beers at the sports bar if you want.
If you don't want to eat there, as you get close to the stadium, there is an entire strip full of shops and restaurants. They have another sports bar called Tailgaters with an outdoor BBQ to make you want to stop in because of the smell. There are pizza places such as Papa John's and Domino's, burger places, sub shops such as Jimmy John's, you name it. So you can stuff your face sufficiently between parking and walking to the stadium.
The neighborhood is as beautiful as any you will ever see at a football game.
The fans that are there are as passionate as any fans in the game. They love their team even if they may not be too crazy about their coach. The fans stand for the national anthem and the scream "Knights!" as loud as they can when the song gets to "gave proof through the...". They jump up and down to the music and actually make the stands shake. They yell and stomp their feet on every third down on defense and are as quiet as a church mouse on third down when UCF has the ball. If they ever get 45,000 of them to show up, UCF will be a tough road venue.
UCF is not near an interstate. It's not that tough to get to from I-95, but not so easy from I-4. You get off on Highway 50 (Colonial Drive) from both. From 95 the drive west on 50 is through the swamp. So there's not much in between 95 and Alafaya Trail which is where UCF is. But going east from I-4 is right through Orlando, so it is one traffic light after another.
The return on investment is great. I paid $35 per ticket for the Missouri game and was ten rows up in the end zone. Seats one section over but on the same row for ECU were $25. Parking in the garages is free. If you eat at the restaurants outside the stadium, they are your typical prices. Gas near UCF is about $.25 a gallon cheaper than it is on I-95 and the coast (not sure why). Concessions are affordable. So the return on investment is about as good as you'll find.
On Thursday, the band formed a ribbon and they had breast cancer survivors all dressed in pink, walk through the band and form a pink ribbon. That was impressive. They have a cheerleading squad that has won a couple of national championships as well. They do a great job of putting on a show for the fans. Additional points for the beautiful neighborhood and vibrant tailgating scene.
If you decide one day to come to Florida in the fall on your vacation, Bright House Stadium is a place you'll want to go if you're a college football fan. Just check the kickoff time and plan accordingly. Bring a rain poncho and a big floppy hat and some sunscreen. That way you'll be ready.
Bright House Networks Stadium is the home of the University of Central Florida Knights. The Knights, a team on the rise, are in the mix this season to win a conference title in Conference-USA. Every year the Knights' fan base continues to grow, as UCF has a student body of over 50,000. The Knights have already been brought up in talks with the Big East Conference expansion, which would help this huge school gain national exposure. Every football game at Bright House Networks Stadium is better than the last.
504 N Alafaya Tr
Orlando, FL 32828
UCF Student Union, Building 52
Orlando, FL 32816
4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816
12125 High Tech Ave
Orlando, FL 32817