The UCF Board of Trustees met Monday to approve the purchase of WMFE-TV’s public broadcasting license and equipment. The Board also approved UCF entering into a long-term agreement to provide management services for a new housing development project located near campus.
The $3.3 million necessary for this purchase is coming from an auxiliary fund that UCF has established. Businesses on campus are charged an overhead fee of 9 percent annually, which has accumulated during the years. While there is a little less than $3.3 million in the fund, the purchase is spread out over three years until it breaks even, UCF’s Vice President and Chief Financial Officer William Merck said. The money for this purchase will not come from state or tuition dollars.
Pending the approval of the Federal Communications Commission, UCF will pay $1.4 million in 2013, then $950,000 in 2014 and 2015.
UCF and Brevard Community College originally partnered together to form WUCF-TV — which hit the airwaves on July 1, 2011 as the area’s only PBS channel — but now BCC wants out to venture off into radio broadcasting. UCF tried to negotiate with BCC to purchase WUCF-TV’s license, but it was unsuccessful.
With WMFE-TV’s license up for grabs, the trustees believed purchasing it would be the best way for UCF to keep serving the Central Florida community. If the Board of Trustees did not approve the purchase of the license, WUCF-TV may have had to cease operations.
Merck strongly supported the purchase, calling it a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.” Merck also went on to say if UCF did not act right away it would result in “regret in years to come.”
“I think it is going to be a great advantage to us as we tell the UCF story to the folks in our region,” Merck said.
Harris Rosen, who is a member of the Board of Trustees, strongly disagreed with Merck and was the only one to vote against the proposal. Rosen viewed it as too much of a gamble, especially since the 15 percent differential tuition increase was just approved last week. Rosen said that the purchase would result in a “very dangerous situation.”
“These are very difficult budgetary times,” Rosen said. “Is your idea necessary or is it something you want? And I would certainly put this in the not necessary, want category.”
The main debate of the meeting was whether or not financial risk should be ignored in order to promote academics and showcase the talents of UCF’s many students. Rosen focused more on the financial risk, while Merck said they weren’t doing it for profit, but rather to serve the community and UCF’s students.
Christine Dellert, senior communications coordinator at UCF, assured the trustees that fundraising would offset the operating costs. Dellert said that the projected fundraising numbers are realistic.
UCF President John C. Hitt, who also supported the venture, said the purchase of WMFE would add “value for students.”
“This is a project that I very strongly support,” Hitt said. “I believe it is an opportunity that comes infrequently, and I hope we will be able to accept it.”
The purchase of the broadcasting license will enable students to showcase their projects and talents while also allowing students to have a more hands-on experience with broadcasting. It will also provide the Orlando community with access to PBS programs like Sesame Street and American Experience.
In addition to the approval of the purchase of WMFE’s license, a long-term agreement of management and marketing services was also approved by the Board of Trustees for a housing development project located across from the north entrance of campus.
The housing complex is called NorthView, the facility will include 600 beds, 52,375 square feet of retail, a multi-level parking garage and 40,000 square foot faith centers and the housing portion is expected to open to all students in fall 2013.
UCF Housing and Residence Life has entered a 30-year, non-cancelable management agreement with the Alan Ginsburg Family Foundation, the group developing the NorthView project. By doing so, UCF has agreed to not financially give the project any money but rather provide services such as management, shuttle services, resident advisers and maintenance. Merck said while they “can’t pledge financial support,” they would provide NorthView with UCF’s housing expertise.
UCF is also agreeing to market NorthView on the UCF Housing website and to provide brochures as part of the Living Learning Communities.
While UCF is supporting this housing project, all other prior agreements with housing on campus and other affiliated living communities are still being honored.
Merck said that this project will also provide some revenue for the UCF Foundation because of the development of a retail center on the land owned by the Foundation.
While this project includes a Hillel center, UCF will not provide any services to the Hillel. However, UCF is supportive of the decision
“I am strongly supportive of this measure. It is something that is needed and will be very beneficial,” Hitt said, adding that UCF has one of the largest Jewish followings in the nation.
Sam Kaufman, who works for the Central Florida Hillel, said building the new Hillel is a “great opportunity for the university.”
Because of the expected increase in traffic due to NorthView being so close to campus, plans are already being made to alleviate traffic within the area. Executive Director of Real Estate for the UCF Foundation Zan Reynolds said that they have a “development agreement” with Orange and Seminole counties since the project lies within the county lines. There are plans to add more turning lanes as well as lengthening lanes around the intersection of McCulloch Road and Lockwood Boulevard.
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