Saturday night was one of the scariest nights of my life.
It wasn’t because the South Florida Bulls tied with the Central Florida Knights twice and barely beat them in overtime. It was because as the USF students’ section rumbled with the usual stomps and cheers when the opposing team lined up on the offense, the stadium shook and trembled underneath me.
I’m surprised it didn’t break. I could feel the stadium’s bench seating warping below my feet, bending and vibrating with each stomp.
If this is what an on-campus stadium feels like, USF fans shouldn’t want one.
Some large structures like skyscrapers are designed to have some movement so the structure does not break. Though the steel stadium is supposed to sway, according to the Orlando Sentinel, it is not very comforting.
UCF knew it unnerved its fans. To reduce the swaying, UCF spent $100,000 to put stiffening support beams in the stadium’s two end zones, according to UCF’s newspaper, the Central Florida Future. This modification is supposed to reduce the movement by 50 percent, and will be completed when UCF plays its first two away games. USF fans experienced the stadium sans these beams on the USF student section side.
Although UCF officials claim the present swaying threatens no physical harm, it is definitely nauseating and causes fans, such as myself, to lose their balance.
If a multi-million dollar stadium needs to be improved so fans do not feel like it will collapse under their feet — only months after it opened — it is not a proper use of money.
Not only is the Bright House Networks Stadium not worth the $54 million it cost, it’s nothing more than a glorified high school football stadium. Instead of seats, each patron is given a small section of a steel beam to sit on, without any handles or backs to keep fans separated from their potentially drunken peers.
From afar, it’s nothing but a beige eyesore — it doesn’t stand tall on campus as the Knights’ home. It seats only 45,000. If every UCF student wanted to attend a game — UCF has more than 48,000 students — they physically could not.
If every USF student wanted to go to a game, they could — every enrolled USF student could find a place to sit in Raymond James Stadium, with its 70,000-seat capacity.
In addition to its lack of real seats, UCF’s stadium has only one monitor. This isn’t a big deal for the Central Florida student section as they’re seated right across from it, but the opposing team’s student section is located under it. I could not see any replays or footage of the game. At least the stadium was so small that I was practically on the field, sitting in the 200 section.
USF fans should be happy their teams plays at one of the best football stadiums in the NFL. It may not be on campus and it may not be the sole property of the Bulls, but Raymond James has seats with backs and arm rests instead of skinny steel bars.
It also has a concrete — not thin metal — stadium floor that doesn’t warp and bend with the stampede of thousands of Bulls fans. And it has two monitors, so every fan can see what’s happening.
If USF received its own stadium, it would probably be similar to UCF’s. As Saturday proved, that stadium can’t handle Bulls fans. Though USF coach Jim Leavitt has spearheaded a “Respectabull” campaign that urges Bulls fans to stop being obnoxious and rude, it won’t prevent the Bulls from cheering loudly and proudly for their team. A glorified high school stadium cannot handle such a passionate crowd.
Raymond James may be a bit of a drive, but it’s worth it. I’d rather deal with Interstate 275 traffic any day than have my stadium bend and break underneath me.