The UCF Knights football team has experienced unprecedented amounts of success on and off the field. 2019 marks the first year since building an on-campus stadium in 2007 that the team has sold out of season tickets. Spectrum Stadium currently holds 44,206 fans and has a variety of seating options. Now, some folks want to talk about expanding the stadium, including UCF Athletic Director Danny White.
So, let’s talk expansion.
Two Positions, Same Desire
The loudest voices in the expansion of Spectrum Stadium divide into two camps: (1) expand now because there is a waitlist and students are being turned away; and (2) don’t expand because we don’t know the number of folks who will attend games when UCF has a down year or multiple underachieving teams in a row.
Timing seems to be the crux of the expansion discussion. I doubt very much that most people areagainst expanding the stadium. Since we’re all mostly on board with expansion, let’s take a look at some numbers.
Spectrum Stadium vs. The Field
Spectrum Stadium currently holds 44,206 people. How does that stack up against other G5, P5, and FBS stadiums in general?
The average G5 stadium holds 34,623 people. UCF’s stadium is the 12th largest among G5 schools and the 5th largest on-campus stadium among G5 schools. In the AAC, UCF’s stadium ranks 5th in terms of capacity and 2nd for on-campus stadiums behind only ECU which holds 50,000.
The average P5 stadium holds 66,739 people. UCF’s stadium is only larger than 5 other P5 stadiums. The most probable landing spot for UCF should expansion occur is the Big 12, where UCF would have the smallest stadium in terms of capacity, although not by much (Baylor holds 45,140 and TCU holds 46,000).
The average FBS stadium holds 50,928 people. UCF’s stadium ranks 73rd among all FBS stadiums.
UCF’s stadium’s current configuration ranks below average overall for FBS in terms of capacity, ranking high among G5 schools but low among P5 schools.
If UCF expands the stadium to 55,000, Spectrum Stadium would rank 45th among P5 teams, 6thamong G5 teams (1st in on-campus stadiums), and 50th overall in FBS. Expanding drastically to 65,000 would put Spectrum Stadium at 28th among P5 teams, 4th among G5 teams, and 31st overall.
But Wait, There’s More!
UCF and Danny White have much to consider when it comes to stadium expansion. Here are my thoughts currently:
Students — Expanding the stadium would allow more students to attend games. Right now, this is a big deal as not a few students are being turned away at the gate. At UCF, students pay a significant fee that supplements the athletic department’s budget. So in a way, all those students getting turned away have paid for access to UCF sports and are not receiving what they’ve paid for. On the other hand, students can be the most fickle of fans. In a blowout, the student section can clear out pretty quickly. Additionally, students also tend to not support an underachieving team.
Premium Seating — Expanding the stadium also might allow for more premium seating, which really helps the bottom line. The addition of another tower (or expansion of the current one) could be a boon for a cash-strapped G5 team with P5 dreams. UCF has done a great job creating unique stadium experiences for those who want to pay extra.
Opponent Ticket Allotment — UCF currently allots 3,000 tickets to visiting teams, a number that on the surface seems low to many P5 schools. Expansion would allow UCF to offer more tickets to prospective visiting teams. Who knows how many tickets prospective teams would buy and/or return, but psychologically increasing this number might persuade P5 ADs to consider visiting Orlando.
Normal Folks — Stadium expansion would allow for more options for single-game ticket buyers looking to check out what this UCF team is all about. If you look at the current configuration, there are very few options for someone looking for a single-game ticket. UCF has allotted 28,000 for season tickets, 12,000 for the student section, and 3,000 for the visiting team. That leaves approximately 1,200 single-game tickets. As far as I can tell, most of these are in the upper sections, corners, and endzones.
Where Would the Expansion Go?
We get caught up in numbers for expansion, but a more important question for me is: how can UCF add seating that can be accessible to all the above groups and still be comfortable?
It should be noted that the original design of the stadium allowed for another deck of seating to be built around the entirety of the stadium expanding the capacity to around 65,000. This expansion would not be a traditional upper deck but an extension of the current seating configuration. These plans seem to be all but jettisoned with how the stadium has been currently configured.
The most organic expansion going forward would be an upper deck on the visitor’s sideline across from Roth Tower. This addition would allow for another tower with more premium seating. The biggest problem with expanding the east side of Spectrum? Shade. The afternoon sun baking that upper deck would be brutal. UCF would have to get very creative in order to make that a pleasant experience.
UCF could also expand with an upper deck along both sides of Roth Tower. This configuration would create bad sightlines for fans and would look unnatural. Expansion could also occur in the south endzone with an upper deck, allowing for more students and cheaper single-game tickets. This unlikely configuration would look really weird, though.
In an ideal world, I would like to see UCF build traditional upper deck seating with a roof (similar to what MLS stadiums are doing) all the way around leaving room for Roth Tower to expand almost the entirety of the west sideline. This configuration would be costly(!) but would look amazing, provide more seating for all groups, and comfort for those September midday kickoffs.
I don’t think UCF needs to expand now, but having a plan in place right on the cusp of expiring TV contracts that may lead to conference expansion seems like a great idea.