The future is here: UCF unveils $50M "football campus" facility plan
Terry Mohajir is thinking big.
The UCF athletic director unveiled a grand facilities vision during Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting, which included enhancements to the Bounce House like additional premium seating and a new adjoining football facility.
You can watch Mohajir's presentation (above) which begins at approximately the 2:26:00 mark.
To recap his address to the board:
-Mohajir, who was hired in February to replace the outgoing Danny White, said he and his staff have been working at "warp speed" in their six months on campus.
-In an overview of UCFAA financials, Mohajir stated they finished Fiscal Year 2021 in the black, thanks to the ChargeOn Fund and also because of "Rocky Top," a nod to the buyout money UCF received when Danny White ($2.5M) and Josh Heupel ($3.5M) departed for Tennessee.
They also approved a $73M budget for FY22. He hopes to have a $100M budget in the next five years. "That is our goal and I think that helps us become more attractive than we already are."
-"Championship Resources" has been renamed "ChargeOn Fund." They considered the name "ChargeOn Club," but wanted to be clear that you give to a fund and join a club. They now have a record 8,156 donors. Their goal is reach 10,000 donors by June 2022. Since February 1, UCF has raised $5.5M and added 31 new Shareholders (defined as major gift donors).
-Student-Athlete Success has always been a "passion project" for Mohajir. His goal is 100 percent job placement or graduate school placement for every student-athlete graduate. This year, even coming in late, they will achieve 100 percent. They are also helping the previous year's graduates.
-UCF has posted 27 consecutive semesters of a departmental GPA of 3.0 or above. 287 student-athletes earned All-Academic AAC honors.
-Continuing to recap the spring semester, Mohajir stated two UCF teams made the NCAA Sweet Sixteen (Men's Soccer and Women's Tennis). Four UCF teams won AAC titles (Men's Soccer, Volleyball, Men's Tennis and Women's Tennis). Eight UCF teams competed in the postseason and Women's Track had two student-athletes compete at NCAA Nationals. Freshman Rayniah Jones was second in the nation in the 100-meter hurdles.
-In regards to Brand Advancement, Mohajir stated it's very important for "where we are in the national landscape of conference realignment." Since 2018, UCF has had the ninth-most nationally televised network games trailing only Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Florida and Auburn, and just ahead of LSU. Network games include national over-the-air telecasts on ABC, Fox, etc.
In regards to Global Exposure, Mohajir explained the difference between "followers" and "engagement." UCF is among the top 10 in engagement on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. "That's what networks are looking for. How do you interact with the community? Eyeballs are absolutely paramount as we go forward."
He added that since August 1, 2017, UCF is No. 1 in engagement rate in FBS football among top 25 brands on Facebook and Instagram and No. 20 on Twitter. Nearly every sport leads the AAC in impressions on Instagram and Twitter. "We have a very active fanbase on Twitter. You may have heard people call it the Twitter Mafia."
-Merchandise Sales: Since 2014, it's just under $8M. "We have one year left on our apparel deal so this is important as we take this to market."
-Mohajir outlined the facility upgrades completed earlier this summer, which includes a refreshed Wayne Densch Sports Center, the replacement of the Nicholson Fieldhouse artificial turf, softball upgrades including renovated locker room, new turf at John Euliano Park in the foul territory and updating the WBB locker room.
The IPF turf was 17 years old, and the turf life should only be 10 years. He knew they had to get that done quickly because it was a injury risk to players. He also added they've replaced the "old yellow" paint on the fieldhouse.
-And now for the facilities vision presentation. He prefaced that their vision will include enhancements for every sport/facility, but today's concept presentation will be geared around football.
Quotes that were displayed and read by Mohajir: "All investments start with an idea. Ideas don't chase money. Money chases idea. Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare."
Their vision is a "one-of-a-kind concept" of a "football campus" that will include housing, nutrition, sports medicine, sports performance, academics and career services all in the same area.
-Next up was the first reveal of conceptual designs (renderings). The first image displayed was an aerial shot showing the Bounce House and facilities, which includes a relocated spot for the planned McNamara Recovery River (new name) and a new South End Zone facility.
In outlining the need for Recovery River, Mohajir name dropped Bo Jackson as a player who benefited from water therapy.
How will these projects be phased in? The first objective will be to shift over the existing fields to make room for Recovery River and an expanded parking lot. "Nicholson Plaza" will be the name as it will become the "front porch" in regards to stadium access.
Mohajir talked about the need to add permanent cold pools for post-practice as currently players "jump in trash cans full of ice."
"CoveGating" will also be a revenue stream for Recovery River, and they will rent it out during the offseason. "Everything here has the ability to generate money except for the player areas."
The second project will be the new stadium/football facility, called the "Launch Club" which celebrates their space heritage. "From that club, you can see the launches from the Space Coast which will be a unique feature that nobody else in the country has. We're trying to be indigenous to who we are."
The football coaches are currently housed in the Wayne Densch Sports Center and they're "on top of each other," Mohajir said, referring to the cramped quarters for an expanded staff. So in this concept, they will move from the WD into the new "Launch Club" area inside the Bounce House. "Every coach in America wants their offices in the stadium." The top level of the building is the actual club for premium seating, but it will double as a lunch/dinner/reception spot that can be rented out. It will also be a built-in "faculty/staff club."
The Launch Club seating will be in a "loge box" configuration, taking up the current location of the upper south end zone.
The coaches' families will also have their own isolated seating area away from the rest of the stadium, so they are not subjected to "comments from fans."
Mohajir, commenting on the beautiful view of one rendering, "who wouldn't want to come here and be a student-athlete?" Then added, "You see some schools building $100M facilities, even in this state. We don't need to do that. You know why? Because there's a lot of things to do here. In those towns, there's nothing to do."
Mohajir then talked about the importance of student support. "The student body is the heartbeat and soul of this campus." So the goal was to create a new area for student seating which they did in the form of standing room only "wings" to the corners of the north end zone, comparing it to the configuration at the Orlando City stadium.
With the coaches moving to a new facility, the existing Wayne Densch will become a "player-only area." They showed a rendering of a new lobby idea and also a new weight room vision with clear glass walls instead of the current glass block. The team meeting room would capture their "space heritage."
-In wrapping up his presentation, Mohajir used words to describe UCF: "Bold, entrepreneur, modern, youthful, energetic." And for their academic creed: "Integrity, community, creativity, excellence."
-Then it was time for questions from the trustees.
Trustee Joseph Conte asked Mohajir if he has traveled around the state to look at other schools' facilities. Conte said he's been to a few and "some are extremely impressive." Mohajir referred to a school "up north" that built a new facility, and said UCF didn't necessarily need to do the same thing. Before he could finish his train of thought, Conte asked Mohajir if he had seen FAU's facilities. Mohajir, citing his FAU past, said their stadium was one of his projects.
Mohajir: "I've seen a lot of athletics facilities across the country and we will be able to compete 100 percent with anybody in this country. Anybody, with this vision. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State. This will put us on that type of level."
Mohajir said those are the schools they recruit against. "Levels are a state of mind."
Board Vice Chair Harold Mills asked for cost. Mohajir was hesitant to pin down a number. Mills asked for a range. Mohajir said the plan is $130M for everything, including every sport. The projects outlined for the football campus would be in the $50M range, though Mohajir said it's hard to pin down.
Board Chair Alex Martins referenced Texas and Oklahoma's recent SEC move as "changing the collegiate landscape." He asked what impacts that could have on UCF.
Mohajir: "I think right now it's one big staring contest. They're all wondering about the next steps. What we can do is we can be the best we can be. We have to be prepared and ready. And we are. We are prepared. We are ready. This information out today, this will make national news. We'll be the only school in America that has a football campus, while also keeping our core values and principles of education and career services.
"We're all still trying to learn what's going on. I've been on the phone with my colleagues all over the country. There's 130 ADs across the country. I'll be in D.C. in September to learn a little bit more. What's the value? The only thing we can do is create more value of our program. I think we're doing that. Eyeballs. Donors. Season ticket holders. It creates a lot of value. We're at 97 percent capacity right now. Those are by choice. There's not a lot of schools in the country that are there.
"I would say that we are poised and ready to be as strong as any national brand in the country."
-The Trustees also approved the usage of the Bounce House for the Hula Bowl, a three-year term. Mohajir said his goal was to help the Hula Bowl become the "preeminent" college football all-star game, matching or surpassing the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. While the move was necessitated by the current repairs to the football stadium in Honolulu, there is a possibility the game will remain in Orlando longer term.