Orlando City's Flavio Augusto da Silva sees dream come true in new stadium

Orlando City Stadium construction - April 2016 (1)

ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando City majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva got to tour his under-construction stadium on Monday for the first time since the work started going vertical, and he pronounced it “a dream come true.”
The Brazilian has been central to the financing package that has allowed the Lions to fully fund the entire construction, and, with the basic structure now rapidly taking shape, Da Silva was able to take a good look at the work in progress.
“It looks fantastic and it is an amazing feeling just to have the opportunity to see it personally,” he said. “What one day was a dream, now is becoming reality. I have worked very hard with our team on this project and things are moving very fast now and I can see that there is a real stadium over here.
“Everything is good, everything is on time for the first game of next year.”
Da Silva, who is currently living in Portugal in part because of his children’s education, was visiting his team for the first time this season this week. He was enormously encouraged both by what he saw in Sunday night’s 4-1 win over Portland and the stadium development.
“I can first say that this started happening not from my investment but from the dream of so many people,” Da Silva said. “It started with [founding owner] Phil [Rawlins] and then from others, too. Second, the investment was important for me personally because it was a fantastic feeling to arrive here and be able to see the dream coming true. It is one of the best feelings an owner can have.”

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With an intended capacity of 25,500, Orlando’s new home will be short of their current 33,000 average at the Citrus Bowl, but da Silva believes it is more important to have a sellout crowd each week in a desirable part of the city than to have a bigger stadium in a different spot.
“With this many seats, we have to be realistic as we understand that the downtown area is a fantastic location, the best possible for us,” he explained. “It is much better to have 26,000 seats here than to have 35,000 somewhere in the west area.
“In this location, we will have sold-out games every game. Everybody loves to go to a party and we will have a great soccer party every week.”
As he toured the site with project manager Brent Beardslee of the Icon Venue Group, the Lions’ benefactor also pointed out that the first area under construction is for the two main supporters’ groups who form ‘The Wall’ behind one goal on gamedays.
“One thing that is very interesting is that we started building this stadium in the supporters’ area that will be The Wall,” da Silva said. “It was important to us that the guys that will support us every game are clearly identified, so that’s where we start, with The Wall.
“The first thing that will make this stadium the best is that because it is our home. This is where we go to have our games, and to receive our supporters and our families.”
Da Silva admitted that the design borrows heavily from a number of mid-sized English stadiums that all feature a low roof and compact layout to maximize the sound of the home fans.
“We have a lot of good examples in England of 25-27,000 seat stadiums and this model for us works very well for the size we have,” he added. “It was our first priority to have a stadium in this downtown location. There is not so much land but it is the perfect size for what we want to achieve.”
Asked if there might, eventually, be a way to increase capacity, Da Silva added: “I’m not an engineer but I hope so.”
The Lions’ main man also addressed the offseason of apparent behind-the-scenes turmoil that saw several front office and coaching figures leave.
“I am very happy with things on the coaching side and I think that today Adrian [Heath] has a lot of options, which is most valuable thing for a coach,” Da Silva insisted. “All these changes were necessary and now the team is very solid.
“We have a lot of young talent but now we also have experience in the likes of [Antonio] Nocerino and [Julio] Baptista, and this is fantastic for the coach to develop the young players that can grow and strengthen the strategy. I think this year we are much more solid to make a better run at things.”
Da Silva further underlined the point about improving the team’s veteran characteristics, which were distinctly lacking last year when any of Kaka, Aurelien Collin or Brek Shea were suspended or injured.
“It is always very good to win a game with four goals, as we did on Sunday,” he added. “This result shows the very hard work that the team – both coaches and players – has been putting in in the last year. Last year, we started from scratch, so this year we are much more experienced and Adrian is very confident with the team and the team is much more mature.
“It is very important to be more experienced. We had the youngest team in the league in 2015, so it was important to get the right mix this year, with young talent and experienced talent. Baptista will bring some more experience and he will help Cyle Larin – who is an amazing talent – a lot. Antonio is also a very good leader as we bring more leadership and more experienced players.”