ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The University of Central Florida is a major step closer to being able to build a campus at the site of the old Amway Arena in Downtown Orlando after the state university system's Board of Governors voted 14-2 to approve $20 million for the effort.
Mayor Buddy Dyer believes this is a big deal, adding, “This is a really good day in Orlando and another example of the power of partnership and collaboration.”
With the approval now in place, Mayor Dyer knows there are still two crucial steps to go: he has to get the $20 million approved by both the Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott.
“Our conversations with the governor have been that he is supportive of this project, and I think irrespective, unless we just have a total meltdown, and they are not able to do a budget, they still have to come back and do a budget, so we have great support.”
The funding was vetoed last year when the Legislative Session did melt down, and Dyer acknowledged there is a lobbying effort left. “I have great confidence that we will make it through the process both through the Legislative portion as well as the governor’s review of the budget once it is passed, but we will not take that for granted and we will be working that the next couple of weeks.”
The $20 million in state money would be combined with $20 million from UCF's budget and $20 million in privately raised donations. The vote made the funding contingent on that private money, and UCF President Dr. John Hitt says he is working to get that last 4 million done. “Well, if any of you want to get out your checkbook. (laughs)”
Among board members, south Florida attorney Dean Colson, expressed reservations. He called UCF a good university, not a great one, and said the school needs a new science building more than a downtown campus. “I do not believe this is a priority for the state university system, and I do not believe this is a priority for UCF.”
The new campus would have 7,700 students, but a third of those would be online only as part of a health information technology program. Other programs that would be at the downtown campus would include government, digital media, social work -- including law. The university hopes to have that campus opened by the Fall of 2018.