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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The feeling one gets at CFE Arena for college basketball equals that of a rising collegiate basketball powerhouse. While UCF isn’t exactly a school that fits that definition, its fan base more than helps that feeling by filling seats and raising decibel levels. While some may not look for that college basketball feel in central Florida, that may be a mistake, as UCF definitely has some of the markers one looks for when attending NCAA hoops action.
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".
The food at CFE Arena is what one would typically expect at a sports arena. Burgers, nachos, chips and cookies, soft drinks, etc. are all available at the various concessions stands. However, the star is the Everglades BBQ booths around the arena. Here you can indulge in a pulled pork sandwich ($8), pulled pork nachos ($8), or pulled pork or chicken sliders ($10). Smaller items like hot dogs ($4), soft pretzels ($4-$5), peanuts ($4), and more are also available throughout the arena.
Surprisingly, UCF's basketball experience is on par with a lot of top notch college basketball programs. When sitting in "The Dungeon" during a game, it is hard not to notice how close to the floor the seats are. Unlike some colleges where the seats are elevated or further away from the action, UCF's seats seem to creep all the way to the floor, just steps away from the action. Even the upper deck seats give you a closer view than those at various other arenas. The student section in the end zone knows how to cheer and heckle with the best of them, and they fill in their seating rather quickly on game days. The UCF band and cheerleaders also help to pump up the crowd during games, adding to the college feel.
UCF may not be in the heart of Orlando, but there are many fun things to do immediately surrounding the campus, and the campus itself is packed with lodging, shopping, and restaurants. Almost every major restaurant chain you can think of is nearby, as well as a mall and several other large shopping districts. Visitors to the campus also will notice several smaller food venues around the arena on UCF's campus. During the holidays, the area is decorated for Light Up UCF, where families can enjoy Christmas lights, ice skating and more before and after the games.
The passion from UCF Knights loyalists is palpable. You cannot help but feel the energy in the building. The closeness of the seats to the arena means the noise level is that much higher inside CFE Arena. The students chant along with the band and cheerleaders. Their seating is perfectly located, too, right behind the opponent's bench and visitor seating area. The arena is also a gathering place for alumni and former players. Surprisingly, there is also a very large contingent of longtime season ticket holders for UCF basketball. These fans have been with the team since its inception, and can tell you the stories of the early years at the team's old Education Arena, the former home of UCF hoops. Generally, this is a great place to bring kids, as UCF basketball remains family friendly no matter who the opponent is.
The college is right off of Highway 417, which offers direct access to Orlando International Airport, the greater Walt Disney World area, I-4 to the north towards Daytona, Florida's Turnpike, and the Beachline Expressway to Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. On campus, parking is actually rather plentiful, with various garages and parking lots in the immediate vicinity of CFE Arena for $5. Parking passes are also available to purchase before games. While traffic can be a bit of a pest during bigger games, it generally flows rather easily and will empty out in due time.
Tickets are not expensive, even for postseason games. Seating starts at $5 and goes up to $25 for non-premium locations. You can have season ticket options for less than $99, as well, with season tickets for kids being half the price as adults. Add to that the low cost of parking and the generally mild pricing on food, and a night at UCF basketball will not break the bank, even for a bigger family.
The UCF fans in attendance usually are given some sort of giveaway at games, whether they are team posters or smaller knick-knacks.
Kids are also invited onto the court during game breaks to participate in fun games and activities to win additional prizes.
UCF's mascot is typically seen walking around the arena, greeting fans, taunting visitors, and posing for photos whenever possible.
Despite UCF having not achieved national prominence as a college basketball powerhouse, the fans at CFE Arena make sure that it feels like they have. They are always on their feet cheering for UCF as much as possible, and they are always welcoming to new fans and visitors alike. Being that the college is in Orlando makes the visit event that much more enjoyable, as the city itself, as well as the surrounding area, are both beautiful year-round and full of things to see and do.
Member Review by StPeteRays
I have many friends who have told me that they were University of Central Florida students or alum, though when I moved to Florida in 2003, I hadn't heard a lot about this school. Maybe I was sheltered or just ignorant to the fact, but I'm not sure why I was left in the dark; with an over-1,400 acre campus just east of downtown Orlando and the second-largest enrollment in the United States (behind only Arizona State University), this school, like most good schools in the state, simply hides under the massive radar generated by the likes of Florida, Florida State, and Miami.
So, when I got the green light to review the Knights' UCF Arena in the heart of this expansive campus, I had about eight people who wanted to come with me; students, alums, and overall fans alike, all because of the rising popularity of this hidden gem. UCF Arena, the largest - by almost double with almost 10,000 for basketball - of the on-campus facilities I've reviewed yet, was opened in 2007 to replace the 5,000-seat Venue at UCF Arena, which was built in 1990 and is still standing today for small concerts and the volleyball team.
Member Review by JimFolsom on Feb 15, 2013
I’m almost hesitant to write a review about the UCF Knights basketball experience. UCF basketball is one of those well-kept secrets that if word gets around, it may lose some of its good qualities. I attended a recent game at the UCF Arena with my two kids. It was a quite enjoyable time.
Member Review by jasoncollette on Jan 16, 2014
The University of Central Florida has come a long way in its basketball facilities. When the school began playing basketball, it borrowed gym time from local high schools. It eventually began playing games in a multi-purpose gym that was attached to its College of Education building until opening up its first free-standing structure in 1991. That poorly-designed facility quickly proved to be inadequate for Division I sports, which led UCF to building the newly-named CFE Arena that first opened its doors in 2007. The most recent arena retains the traditions of the former UCF Arena, but is a major improvement in every other area and one of the best on-campus venues in the Sunshine State.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Nov 30, 2014
They charge $5 for parking but with tickets only $5, I can excuse this. Jimmy Johns needs more advertising, I didn't see it and wish I had. Good fans and will be a great place in conference play.
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