ORLANDO-Construction on the first major commercial real estate project in 2006 in Central Florida probably won’t be a high-rise condominium community but a 45,000-seat, $51-million football stadium on the six-million-sf University of Central Florida’s main campus. The main campus is 13 miles east of Downtown Orlando.

UCF’s Golden Knights football team has been playing its home games at the 75,000-seat Florida Citrus Bowl in west Orlando for the past 25 years. The stadium will be built just east of the UCF Arena in the intercollegiate athletics complex

UCF officials say they are planning to break ground March 1 on the long-planned project and have it completed by Aug. 1, 2007, in time for the new football season. The university’s board of trustees has approved a financing plan that shows annual debt on construction bonds will be about $4.1 million for 30 years and annual operating revenue between $5.1 million and $7.5 million.

Morgan Stanley is advising UCF on the financing. The school has set up Golden Knights Corp. to formally finance the stadium for the university. UCF corporate communications director Tom Evelyn says UCF has raised more than $4.5 million in private donations and is negotiating multimillion-dollar name rights for the stadium with several potential corporate sponsors.

Evelyn says the university has sold 20 of the stadium’s planned 21 suites and all 800 club seats for an estimated total of $8 million over five years. The remaining suite is being held for the purchaser of the stadium’s naming rights. Projected revenue to cover the cost of the stadium’s construction and operations will come from ticket and concessions sales, donations, corporate sponsorships and advertising.

“Conservative estimates show the stadium having an annual income of at least $8.5 million from these and other sources,” Evelyn says. “No public funds or tuition [revenue] will be used to build or support the stadium.” The $51-million cost includes $45 million for the stadium design and construction and $6 million for infrastructure that includes roads, parking and practice fields for football, soccer and baseball.

The stadium will include 15,255 seats in the lower bowl and 27,455 seats in the upper bowl. The stadium will also have 800 club seats and 852 seats for fans in wheelchairs and their companions. The 21 suites will have a total 459 seats.

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