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.
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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".
The food is typical stadium food. There is not much out of the ordinary available, but what is there serves the purpose. The popcorn comes in a rather small box, as opposed to the O'Connell Center at the University of Florida where you can get a rather large bag. It was gone well before the first half ended. One nice touch at UCF is that you can spend $8 and get a souvenir drink with as many refills as you want. This meant we only had to buy one drink for the three of us, and we shared it and got it refilled. This is a good thing with small kids, because they never finish theirs if you buy them one of their own. The kids also liked the fact that candy was sold at the stands.
I was quite pleasantly surprised with the arena's atmosphere. Just before tip-off, it looked as though there was going to be a small and rather quiet crowd. However, as the game started, the gym filled up to about half-full and the crowd was into the game. All things considered, that's not bad.
The arena is fairly new and is kept clean and shiny. It holds about 10,000 and I would estimate that about 5,000 were there on the night I attended. There are no bad seats in the house as even the higher level seats are still pretty close to the court. The seats are chairs with arm rests and backs. The restrooms are clean. UCF Arena is a very nice place to visit.
The neighborhood around the arena is hard to beat. Everything is brand new. It is all very clean and nice. There is no shortage of places to eat or drink, either on campus or just a short drive away on Alafaya Trail, University Avenue or Colonial Boulevard. There is a sports bar/barbecue restaurant within walking distance, along with several pizza and sub shops. If you are searching for chain restaurants and fast food places, you will find those on Colonial and Alafaya here. There is nowhere around the campus where you would feel uneasy about being out after dark.
The UCF fans are as good as any you'll find, even at powerhouse basketball schools. You may not expect this type of fan base, since UCF is mostly considered a "football school", but the students are really into the game. They start the game by turning their backs on the opposition during pre-game introductions, shouting "Who?" after each name. They have their own little ritual whenever one of the Knights hits a free throw that includes two claps, two foot stomps and some hand gestures.
The students get loud when the Knights are on defense and they stand up throughout the entire game. The non-student fans are into the game, as well. At many places, the "older folks" just sit there on their hands most of the time. The Knights fans were hassling the referees, yelling encouragement to the players and telling the coach what he should do next. If there were more of them, I'd give them a five.
UCF Arena is easy to get to from north and east of Orlando. Travel on I-95 south and exit onto Highway 50 (E Colonial), then turn right on Alafaya to get to the campus. Turn right on Gemini, which takes you right to Parking Garage H. It costs $5 to park in the garage, with a short walk to the arena. Traffic on Alafaya can be a bit of a pain at times, so be patient.
Tickets to the game I attended were $8.00, and we were about 10 rows from the floor. That's tough to beat. For our money, we saw a great game that was back and forth all night between Southern Miss and UCF. The Knights won 60-58 as USM missed a three-point attempt to win it at the buzzer. With tickets for the three of us, the snacks at the game, gas there and back and stopping to eat at the nearby Steak- n-Shake after the game, we probably spent under $100.00. We were back home by 11:00, and the kids still made it to school the next morning.
Orlando basketball fans tend to think of the Orlando Magic when they want to go to a game. If not for the Magic, UCF basketball might be a bit more popular in the area. For those fans who do go to a UCF game instead, it is a good time. UCF has the potential of being a hot ticket in town, especially if the Magic rebuild takes a while and UCF can establish a consistent winning tradition.
This is an area where UCF truly has the potential to attract more fans. These people are ready to get behind the team. If the school were to possibly have some giveaway nights (t-shirt night, hat night or something similar) and get people to the game, fans would see what a good time UCF basketball is and come back. They might also team up with the Magic on some combo ticket deals where if you buy Magic tickets to a certain game, you can also get UCF tickets to a game on a day when the Magic are off. Of course, the Magic may be hesitant for their fans to find out the UCF basketball might be a better product.
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.
504 N Alafaya Tr
Orlando, FL 32828
4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816
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