May 4, 2011
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFathletics.com) - Whether it's with highly touted recruits or even big-name opposing teams, UCF Track & Field head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert loves to sit back and listen to the raves and admiration when those athletes step onto UCF's dazzling campus for the first time.
With teeming, new facilities for football and basketball firmly in place, UCF has already developed a reputation as having one of the premier campuses for athletics in Florida. And those facilities are about to get another massive upgrade with Thursday's opening of the revamped UCF Soccer and Track Stadium. The facility will be unveiled at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday during UCF's Twilight meet.
The $1.2 million upgrade to the facility will add 1,475 more seats and take the complex capacity to more than 2,000. There is also a new press box, sound system and permanent restroom facilities. The main entrance of the facility was upgraded as well as additions made to the track to give UCF's highly successful squads an even better place to compete.
In the eyes of Smith Gilbert, whose track & field squad is the defending Outdoor and Indoor Conference USA champions, the upgraded facility will only enhance what is already a pretty impressive campus to the outsiders who visit UCF.
``It's just a beautiful place. People come here and they are absolutely wowed by what we have on this campus,'' Smith Gilbert said. ``With the three meets we have this year, we have Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Clemson, Michigan, Maryland, Illinois and Miami coming in. They're all coming here now and when I first got here I couldn't get anybody on campus. Now, they come here and the weather is nice and the facilities are great. And when we get this expansion opened, it's just really going to help us out even more.''
The facility upgrades are a welcomed addition to track and field and men's and women's soccer programs that established themselves on a national level in the past year.
Both the men's and women's soccer teams reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament this past season. The men's team hosted its first-ever NCAA game in the fall, routing rival South Florida 3-0. The Knights allowed just 15 goals in 18 games all season and were 8-1 at home counting the defeat of USF.
UCF's women's soccer team once again won the C-USA regular-season crown, but it lost 1-0 at home in the tournament championship game. The Knights beat Fresno State in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament, but lost 2-1 to UCLA.
The track team, which has been ranked as high as No. 8 nationally this season, became the first squad in school history to win the indoor and outdoor titles and will look to make it three C-USA crowns in a row next week in Houston. Junior hurdler Jackie Coward reached All-American status last year, and is a favorite to do it again this season. And the nation's best high school runner, Octavious Freeman, has already signed a National Letter of Intent to run at UCF next season.
Smith Gilbert says that even bigger things are possible for her program with a new, upgraded facility to compete in.
``It shows that the administration level of commitment and concern toward our track and soccer programs,'' she said. ``The stadium will allow us to attract a lot more teams to our meets. It kind of gives us credibility of having a track and soccer `stadium' instead of just a track and soccer `complex.' And finally we'll be able to hold some bigger meets here. It's a step toward being able to hold a regional championship someday. It's a great start for us.''
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFathletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at email@example.com.