The Florida International University football team and Miami FC soccer team got a $3.76 million facelift for their stadium thanks to an Italian media mogul whose gift is the largest in FIU athletics history and 12-largest gift of any kind to the university.
FIU announced Monday that FIU Stadium is now called Riccardo Silva Stadium, named after the primary owner and president of Miami FC, which made its debut last season with the North American Soccer League. Miami FC plays its home games at the venue, and opens the 2017 season Saturday night there against the New York Cosmos.
Silva’s donation paid for naming rights to the 20,000-seat stadium, and also for improvements such as a new turf field, and an 1,800-square-foot, high-definition videoboard.
“We are very grateful to Riccardo and his generosity,” said FIU athletic director Pete Garcia. “This is huge for us, a game-changer, and well-needed. We’ve developed a relationship over the last year and a half, he wants to get involved in the community, he lives here a large portion of the year, so he’s entrenched here.
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“Our players love it, and coach [Butch] Davis loves it. In college football, a lot of it is about facilities, so any time you can improve your facilities, get a state-of-the-art turf, jumbotron and the other things we’re doing, this is huge for Butch and recruiting and the football program.”
Miami FC coach Alessandro Nesta, one of the greatest defenders in Italian soccer history, is delighted with the new playing surface. He and the players complained last season about the conditions of the field.
“This is a very important improvement, because last season, every time we came here to play, it was not good,” Nesta said. “It was impossible, really, to play good soccer on that turf. This season, Riccardo has resolved this problem and now we have a beautiful field, the best in this league, for sure, and we are ready to give a good show for all the fans who come watch the games.”
Miami FC finished in 11th place in the spring season last year, improved to fifth place in the fall season, and was seventh overall for the year. The team opened this season with a tie at North Carolina FC and a 3-0 road win against the Cosmos.
“Now, they will win all home games, they will have no excuses,” Silva said, laughing. “No, seriously, I think last year was our first year in all senses, and I think it was a positive season. Maybe we didn’t have the best turf, but we worked together in the offseason with the university to make it better. Now, we have a perfect field, the right combination for football and soccer. Both teams will benefit.
“When I launched the team, it was about doing something meaningful, not only for soccer, but also for the city of Miami and the Miami communities. FIU is one of the most important institutions of Miami, so this is a perfect combination to share a stadium. If two teams share a stadium, it is very beneficial because you can combine forces, combine resources, do cross-promotion, it’s a win-win situation.”
The FIU football team will host its Spring Game at the stadium Friday night, and opens the 2017 season on Sept. 9 against Alcorn State.