In the Stadium, On the Campus and Into Life
For students and fans of UCF Athletics, the focus is usually on the big wins. One can’t help but remember last year’s first appearance in a BCS bowl game where UCF upset No. 6 Baylor, a 17-point favorite, to win the Fiesta Bowl 52-42. Or this season when the Knights once again won the American Athletic Conference title with an impressive 9-3 record, winning in the final seconds with a Hail Mary pass.
No one celebrates these achievements like Todd Stansbury, UCF’s vice president and director of athletics. Winning programs galvanize the student body and bring the campus experience to a completely different level. It also is a magnet that draws alumni back to the University year after year. But Stansbury’s goals go far beyond winning teams – to successful student-athletes who are able to translate and transition their collegiate experience to a successful life and career.
That objective took a major step forward in December when ground was broken for the Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership, thanks to a $4 million gift from the Wayne M. Densch Charitable Trust and a $1 million gift commitment by the Williams Family Foundation. These gifts, along with the $1 million donation by Bob and Carol “Garvy,” helped move the project into the end zone.
Leonard Williams, trustee of the Wayne M. Densch Charitable Trust commented, “The leadership at UCF, Todd Stansbury and Rick Walsh shared with me how important it is not only to have competitive sports facilities, but also how critical it is to make a big investment in the academic, personal and professional development of UCF student-athletes. Under Dr. Hitt’s leadership, UCF has grown significantly. Our family is proud to make this investment.”
Planting for the Future
The Center will serve as the headquarters for personal, professional and academic development of nearly 500 Knights student-athletes. The project cost is estimated at $6 million for the three-story, 22,000-square-foot structure. The Center will house UCF’s Academic Services for Student-Athletes, Student Services and Compliance departments. The building will include a multi-purpose classroom with space for up to 200 students, a computer lab, tutoring and mentoring rooms, study space and conference and resource rooms. It will be located just east of and adjacent to Bright House Networks Stadium. Construction is set to begin in January, with the project slated for completion in fall 2015.
In his typically sagacious way, UCF President John Hitt explained why now was the right time for this project. “Somebody asked, what’s the best time to plant an oak tree? And the answer was 20 years ago, but the second best time is today. That’s where we are today. Gosh, I wish we had this 20 years ago. I wish the student-athletes who had come through UCF would have had this all that time. We couldn’t do it then; we can do it now.”
Stansbury summed it up saying, “This is the culmination of moving our focus from graduation being the end of the road, to really being the beginning. And what’s going to happen in this building is the result of programming associated with preparing our student athletes for life after graduation.”
More On the Way
Imagine you live in Minnesota, Ohio or Oklahoma; it’s early December and you’re watching a UCF home football game on ESPN. While you sip hot chocolate and ponder shoveling the snow from your driveway at halftime, the ball is teed up for the opening kickoff.
As the pigskin soars down the field, the camera pans the crowd and there in the middle of the stadium are fans, not on bleachers, but in a deck area, wearing tank tops and flip flops. It is a visible promotion of a region that is known as one of the greatest places in the world to live, to work, to play…and to go to college!
Always thinking outside the box to enhance the University’s national profile and the experience of the student and the alumni fans, UCF Athletics has come up with an imaginative plan to create a destination on campus for a one-of-a-kind game time viewing area.
What is more, this new area located just inside the stadium, next to the new Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership, provides a venue for year-round use by the University, corporate clients and anyone looking for a unique destination for events. Go Knights!