In the late 1990s, a UCF athletic administrator called me into an office and rolled out a set of blueprints. It was for an on-campus stadium. I stared in amazement and asked when and how?

He responded, “Someday, I just don’t know when.”

I remember driving to campus the morning of Sept. 15, 2007. UCF was playing host to Texas in the opening football game at Bright House Networks Stadium.

I had no idea what to expect. In fact, no one did. There had never been a day like it before at UCF.

The Knights had been playing football games for 28 years at that point, but not a single down of one of those games had been played in an on-campus stadium.

Those blueprints had become reality.

I wondered how it would look. I wanted to get there early and soak it all in.

I pulled off the highway and drove onto the campus from the backroads. Then they appeared: the first signs of game day.

John C. Hitt (walking center in crowd clearing) soaks in the atmosphere of game day in IOA Plaza.

Fans tailgated with tents up. They fired up their grills and tossed their footballs. Car flags waved prominently as parking lots, grass areas and dirt fields filled some six hours before a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

The closer I got to the stadium the more real it became.

What many had said was not possible was now real — and little did those of us in attendance on that September Saturday know what was to come.

The first game held in Bright House Networks Stadium

On that day, the No. 6-ranked Longhorns helped christen the stadium before a sold-out crowd. Trailing 3-0, UCF’s offense marched down the field, setting up star running back Kevin Smith to score from two yards out to give the Knights the lead.

No one was prepared for what happened next. The stadium literally began to bounce as fans jumped up and down to celebrate the first touchdown scored in the new on-campus facility.

The first tradition was created, and the Bounce House was born.

This isn’t just a stadium — it’s become who we are.

More than 5 inches of rain dumped on Orlando when UCF beat Marshall, 16-6, on October 8, 2011.

Yet to come was the Marshall monsoon game in 2011. The 10hana AAC championship in 2018. The College GameDay primetime win over Cincinnati that same year. The 2021 Boise State opener that took two days to win. And who could forget a “reservation for six in the cabanas” in 2017?

It’s also been our home for Knight fans to build memories, friendships and traditions that will last a lifetime.

Over the years “this place” has given fans dramatic wins, memorable performances and championship moments. It has brought generations together that may never have met if not for their common passion for their beloved Knights.

But for years the idea of an on-campus stadium at UCF was a dream that many had said could never come true.

UCF’s stadium in an early phase of construction.

“Where will you raise the money?”

“Why leave the Citrus Bowl?”

“Will the football program grow enough to make this work?”

There were plenty of critics. But all UCF needed was a few dreamers and leaders to see beyond the noise.

(Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

UCF President John C. Hitt and several prominent UCF supporters saw the vision of what an on-campus stadium could be. They believed the football program and a stadium could help elevate the university and its brand. They were right.

Our stadium is not the biggest or fanciest. Maybe it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of others. But it’s got character. It’s about who we are.

We do things a bit differently at UCF. We have field cabanas, a party deck at midfield and student sections in both end zones. The noise from fans can be deafening to visiting teams.

Need I remind you that following Cincinnati’s win over Notre Dame in South Bend in 2021, Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder said UCF’s environment was the toughest he had ever played in.

Fans entering FBC Mortgage Stadium

Since its opening, FBC Mortgage Stadium has allowed UCF to showcase one of the country’s fastest-growing universities.

The construction of the on-campus facility has been the ultimate game changer. I believe it’s the single most important moment in our history because it’s become a symbol of what UCF was, is and will always be. A place where you do what others say can’t be done. A place where doers can achieve greatness. A place that always welcomes home family.

Astoundingly, a few months later the basketball arena opened its doors, too — making UCF the first school to claim the feat of opening a football and basketball facility in the same year.

Those projects now are the centerpieces of a sprawling area of growth that has and will continue to provide UCF student-athletes with some of the nation’s best places to eat, sleep, study, train and perform.

UCF will enter the Big 12 on July 1 — making us the youngest school to enter the Power 5.

The Kenneth G. Dixon Athletic Village transcends the experience for all, including fans. As UCF embarks into a new era heading into the Big 12, new projects will allow all programs to compete at the highest level and showcase what UCF has always been about — be different and create your own history.

Much has changed since that memorable day in 2007 when UCF did what many said couldn’t be done. And the great thing is there is so much more to come.

There will be the first Big 12 conference home game this fall. There might even be the first College Football Playoff game inside that stadium. Students who attended that first game 16 years ago now come as parents with future Knights in tow.

New traditions will be made and even the stadium itself will undergo renovations in the years to come.

What won’t change is who we are.

We will bounce.

We will continue to create one of the best atmospheres in college football.

It’s our home–and there’s no place like home.