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University of West Florida expansion plans

ESCAMBIA COUNTY   --  With more than 12,000 students and 2,400 employees, UWF is a major economic player in Northwest Florida.
The university has been talking about building, expanding and a master plan for a while now -- but progress is slow.

The University of West Florida has big plans for the future, everything from a football stadium on campus to new dorms, even a hotel and conference center here on the edge of campus.
It's all part of a strategic plan to take UWF to the next level, and increase it's economic impact in Escambia County.

President Judy Bense gave her state of the university speech to a packed house, touching on what's ahead for the school.
The enrollment numbers are steady. Football is in the works. And the plans are still in place for major growth on campus.

"If we just keep working on all of these things, we are going to help Escambia County and Northwest Florida be better off. Businesses will rise up. Businesses will grow," says Bense.

Some are asking when, and if, all this is going to happen.
But UWF is reaching out to the community, tapping local business leaders to help, and going 'out of the box' to find new and inventive ways to fund the process.

"The old traditional way that happened for a hundred years has changed. And in order for this university to move to the next level, that's exactly what we're focusing on. Now will they all come through - no. But we're willing to give it our best shot," says local business owner Jay Patel.

Part of the plan is to bring in more students from outside the area to keep growing the school.
We talked to UWF students from Jacksonville and Canada, taking the temperature on campus.
It's all about optimism, mixed with plenty of practicality.

"I'm excited about the football team. I love football. So I'm really excited about it," says UWF student Jared Watkins.

"What I really want to see? More parking. There's no commuter parking here. But I think the new facilities are going to be nice. And it will be nice to involve the community on campus, to have people coming out for concerts and things like that," says UWF graduate student Claire Lacey.