By: Riley Head ~Staff Writer~
The Orlando City Soccer Club unveiled 49 seats in its new stadium honoring the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016. The addition was presented Wednesday and featured the new seats arranged in the colors and formation of the rainbow pride flag. The new seats are a part of a larger effort to help the Orlando community heal.
The Pulse nightclub shooting remains the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history. It is also the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001 attack.
Forty-nine people were killed and 53 people were injured in the attack at the nightclub in downtown Orlando known for its LGBT and immigrant outreach.
The stadium will officially open on March 5 for its first regular season game against the New York City Football Club.
“It was my belief, and I know it’s your belief as a club, that this sport can lift up a community and help to heal a community,” Orlando City President Phil Rawlins said on Wednesday in an interview with Orlando Sentinel. “Today we’re here to do that.”
The rainbow pattern of the seats was chosen to honor the LGBTQ foundations of Pulse nightclub and show support and solidarity with the community that was most closely affected by this act of violence.
“We put them in Section 12, obviously because we felt that was pertinent — it was June 12 last year when the tragedy happened,” Rawlins said in a press conference. “So they’re right here in Section 12, they’re right down by the benches. They’ll certainly be seen by everybody inside the stadium, and [will be] a very significant reminder of that day.”
The city of Orlando purchased the night club for $2.25 million in November, and Mayor Buddy Dyer has announced plans to transform the location into a memorial for the victims.
Plans have been made to involve the community in order to promote healing. Several businesses and organizations have already made their own initiatives to show solidarity with the victims and the affected families.
“I think it’s wonderful that the victims are being honored and remembered. It shows the dedication needed to keep fighting terrorism, hatred, fear, and inequality,” first-year Samantha Peters said.
The hashtag #OrlandoStrong has also started trending online in support of the Orlando community.