The University of Central Florida and the Orlando Magic have announced pledged a from the NBA Hometown franchise of $1.5 million toward a new academic building that will be the centerpiece of a new Downtown campus that is expected to serve about 7,700 UCF and Valencia College students.
“A strong, vibrant, dynamic downtown is paramount to the continued growth of our community,” said Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins, a UCF trustee and alumnus. “UCF’s downtown campus will be a catalyst for that continued development, bringing several thousand students downtown, while serving as a center for job creation. “The DeVos family and Orlando Magic are proud to be founding partners in this project, which will have a tremendous economic impact and serve as another stimulus diversifying opportunities available in our city.”
UCF and the Magic will celebrate the initial private gift supporting UCF Downtown with a check presentation during the Magic-Houston Rockets game at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 23, at Amway Center. Martins will present an oversized check to Mike Morsberger, UCF’s vice president for alumni relations and development, at the end of the first quarter.
“The DeVos family and Orlando Magic are longtime, generous supporters of our university, particularly the DeVos Sport Business Management Program and our first-generation students,” UCF President John C. Hitt said. “We are thankful that the Magic share our vision that a robust, innovative UCF Downtown campus will recast the future of Orlando and add significantly to the educational opportunities for our students.”
Pending approvals, the campus will open in fall 2018. UCF Downtown will offer students an innovative learning environment within walking distance of a wide array of internship and job opportunities in fields such as digital media, communication, public service and health-related programs. The new academic building will complement a renovated Center for Emerging Media building where UCF’s nationally ranked graduate video gaming school, the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, is located.
The Magic’s gift comes less than two weeks after Hitt called on the community to help UCF raise $20 million from private donations to fund one-third of the new building. The university is also contributing $20 million from its resources and asking the state for an additional $20 million. Securing state funding has been a challenge for both UCF and Orlando lawmakers. Last session Governor Rick Scott vetoed $15 million for the project, in what many believed was political retribution from the Medicaid Expansion fight with Orlando Senate President Andy Gardiner.
UCF will share the campus with Valencia College, which will offer programs in digital media, health information technology and culinary and hospitality, including workforce training and other certificates to increase access to education in the immediate downtown area.
“To bring the UCF Downtown campus vision to reality we will once again use our community’s unique formula for partnerships that has resulted in projects like SunRail and the community venues,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “We are grateful to the DeVos family and Orlando Magic for being the first private sector partners to make a commitment to help us advance this catalytic project which will benefit our City and our entire region.”