Riccardo Silva Stadium – Florida International Panthers
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Rising Panthers, Incomplete Atmosphere
A few years ago, FIU football was on the path to being the next Boise State. Then a bad season led to the firing of Mario Cristobal and once again the Golden Panthers find themselves mired in mediocrity. Despite jumping from the lowly Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA, FIU’s college football experience still seems a little forced. However, with a renewed focus on football and the hiring of Butch Davis, the former UM legend, the team is on another upswing. Despite this, the Riccardo Silva Stadium experience still lacks in several areas.
Fans show up more because they may have friends who go to FIU and they want to hang out, instead of coming to see D-I football on the field. When the fans show up, FIU football can be exciting and energetic. Unfortunately, as with most sports teams in South Florida, they don’t show up, especially when the team only wins a handful of games, and isn’t bowl eligible on a yearly basis.
Riccardo Silva Stadium opened in 1995 and was gradually renovated, most recently in 2012 with the addition of new concessions stands, the enclosure of the north side of the bleachers, and the addition of an upper bowl of seats.
Food & Beverage 4
FIU is in the middle of a flavorful area of Miami, with great food on every corner. The fare at Riccardo Silva Stadium reflects that. Prices are average and affordable, and the food is varied. From the burgers and hot dogs that are standard in sports arenas to the arepas vendors that set up on the upper concourse of the stadium, there is no shortage of choices for food. Add to this various beer tap vendors around the stadium that serve both nationally known and local favorites, and you can easily find yourself something to eat at the game without breaking your bank.
The atmosphere at Riccardo Silva Stadium isn’t exactly top notch, but it is improving. The fans, when they do show up, are not exactly hardcore. Many are seen arriving wearing Miami, Florida State, or Florida Gators colors. The fraternities are the biggest FIU supporters, but they only comprise so many fans. While tailgating may be decent outside, some people have been known to arrive at games to set up camp outside, and then stay down in the parking lot to watch a bigger game on their portable TVs while FIU is playing just steps away.
With improved performance comes improved attendance and bigger teams to play, but ultimately FIU is a show that lacks at this time. When a high school rivalry game packs more fans into the stadium and leads to bigger roars to be heard than the college that plays there on a regular basis, it’s hard to take the team seriously as a contender for top entertainment when compared to bigger stadiums. However, since the hiring of Butch Davis, there is a genuine interest in the direction of the program, and that has begun to reflect in the feeling around Riccardo Silva Stadium on game day.
FIU’s athletic fields are on campus, which makes it convenient. Unlike stadiums in the middle of a city, there is a sense of security on campus as you are seemingly separated from the rest of the neighborhood around it. However, there still remains the issue of how that surrounding neighborhood looks, and it isn’t exactly the best in Miami. Sweetwater is a town known for political corruption and severe street flooding during hurricanes, and not much else. Put a college campus in the middle of it, and you have FIU.
For lodging, one option is Aloft Miami Doral just to the north. For those with a wanting for higher society, Trump National Doral is also located north of campus and within driving distance. For food, there is a Five Guys across the street, while the Chili’s on campus offers an alternative to fast food. For something to do with the family when it isn’t game day, both Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve are due west on the same road that FIU’s campus is located (SW 8th Street). In addition, the Miccosukee Casino is also west of campus, about 10 minutes away.
Fans, when they show up, are energetic. It is college after all. However, getting them to show up is another big ask for a results-driven city fan base. Riccardo Silva Stadium has seen very few packed-to-the-gills games since FIU began playing here. Perhaps that says something about the fan base, or lack of, at FIU games.
Thankfully, the success of late has begun to turn the tide, and students and fans alike have begun to return to the home of the Golden Panthers on Saturday nights.
Getting to Riccardo Silva Stadium isn’t too hard, but traffic can sometimes be problematic. As is typical in Miami, traffic backs up right around the exits nearest FIU’s campus on a daily basis. If you find yourself hoping to get to a game and rush hour happens to have lasted a little longer on that day, you may be in for a late arrival.
Return on Investment 2
As far as Riccardo Silva Stadium’s entertainment value goes, the team’s performance doesn’t help its case. The campus is growing and bustling, but their football games aren’t. With a road-weary commuter school student body, getting students to games isn’t their strongest suit. When you want to see college football, you want a rowdy student section and passionate fans. At FIU, you may get a free t-shirt for going and the ability to see “D-I” football played, but that’s about it.
For students, FIU has a program called Panther Points, rewarding students for attending athletic events throughout the year. At certain points, fans with the most points are rewarded with computers, scholarships, and other prizes. For fans, a t-shirt giveaway may be at random games.
In some games, FIU has shot off fireworks that go along with various themed nights, such as Star Wars night. The team also shoots off a cannon every time FIU scores points.
From their continued effort to force a rivalry with UM where none exists, to their lack of fans at home games, FIU is a team with some work to do. Despite this, there remains potential for growth, and if all goes well the Golden Panthers at Riccardo Silva Stadium have the ability to become a huge draw down south once again.
Aloft Miami Doral
3265 NW 107th Ave
Doral, FL 33172
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