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Official Review by Jason Collette, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Orlando Predators are now in their third home in franchise history. For the first 19 years, the team played in the first iteration of Amway Arena in downtown Orlando before moving to the current, more sizable version, Amway Center, three blocks south. The team defaulted on its lease at the new building for failing to meet attendance requirements and found a new home in CFE Arena on the campus of the University of Central Florida for the beginning of the 2014 season.
The 8,803-seat arrangement in CFE Arena is a much more intimate setting for the franchise than was the cavernous arena downtown. The 70 yard field fits rather nicely into the basketball arena with one exception. The low scoreboard forces teams to kick off from a corner of the playing field rather than the traditional center of the field.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Fans have several choices all throughout the arena. On the food side of the ledger, there are several versions of nachos including chicken fajita, chili cheese, pulled pork and even veggie nachos. Chicken tenders, pulled pork sandwiches, turkey legs, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizzas and other standard arena fare are available as well.
Adults and children can also enjoy bottomless souvenir cups of soda and the ice cream stand with waffle cones is very popular at halftime. Unlike the collegiate basketball experience at UCF, there is plenty of alcohol available for fans. Beer, wine, and hard liquor are available all throughout the arena. Back in the heyday of the Predators, it was said that beer sales during their home schedule would exceed the beer sales of the Orlando Magic, who played four times as many home games. Fans that purchase seats in the Tiers 1-4 enjoy access to the Black and Gold club that has an a la carte food menu and special beer and alcohol not available on the concourse.
The fun begins outside "The Jungle" in the courtyard area as there are several pre-game activities for fans to do. Kids can enjoy the bounce houses and interactive games while a live band plays on the stage. Once inside the seating area, it is a constant barrage of music and announcements that only pause once the teams line up for a play. The trademark song for the scene is Guns N Roses's Welcome To The Jungle, but CFE Arena lacks the pulse of the original Amway Arena scene where The Jungle moniker originated.
CFE Arena sits in the middle of the Athletic Village on the north side of campus. The immediate area outside of the arena has several quick dining options including pizza, sushi, and sandwich options, as well as a full-service sports bar. Just off campus, there are plenty of quick and casual dining options and several sports bars. If you have an appetite for something, odds are you can find an option to satisfy it within a three-mile drive of the campus. The newest name on the block is the 4 Rivers Smokehouse just outside the campus gate which has the best barbecue in Orlando.
The crowd that does show up is very much into the fast-paced action on the field and really dresses for the occasion in a variety of Predator football gear as well as masks inspired by the Predator movie from 1987. A mixture of passion, music, encouragement from the public address announcer and liquid courage provide for a festive crowd. The fast-paced action of arena football ensures the crowd can stay in it until the very end as it is not impossible to come back from a two-score deficit with under a minute left. For the right price, fans can be right on top of the action on the field and in arena football.
It is very easy to get to campus, as the FL-408 expressway's terminus is the south end of the UCF Research area that intersects with the campus. It is approximately a 20-minute ride from downtown Orlando, without the presence of rush hour traffic. Parking is $5 in the D garage, which is near the front of the arena, while the F garage toward the rear of the arena is reserved for certain levels of season ticket holders. Exiting the garages can be a labor of love, which is why fans will visit one of the establishments in the village to wait out traffic. Traffic flow after games is an issue for games with large crowds.
Tickets are as low as $10. There is a 10-tier ticket price model for the games, allowing fans the flexibility to choose where they would like to watch the game from. Season ticket packages can be purchased for as low as $75, which includes nine home games. Students showing IDs get seats in the north end zone for just $8. The games are nearly three hours long and there are several fan promotions throughout the game including free t-shirts, free pizzas, and different giveaways from the many game sponsors. If you want to enjoy the ultimate game experience, you and 15 friends can rent a suite for $1000 that includes plenty of elbow room, a private bathroom, and access to a special menu to order from.
Any football thrown into the stands can be kept by fans, unlike the NFL who makes fans return balls thrown or kicked into the stands. Fans are encouraged to use social media during the game and give away prizes to fans who tweet or post pictures on Instagram with the official hashtag for that night's game. Fan participation is very much encouraged on the video board as the cameras are always looking for fans to showcase on the board.
After games, fans are allowed on the field as players come back out to sign autographs and take pictures with fans.
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1600 W Fairbanks Ave
Orlando, FL 32789
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