Lithuanians restart national stadium project

  • 2008-06-11
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS - Lithuanian lawmakers have breathed new life into the national stadium in Vilnius, agreeing on June 5 to allocate 100 million litas (29 million euros) to the stalled project.
The stadium, which was supposed to be completed by June 2009, was brought to a standstill four months ago after the government froze funding.
The government earlier had promised to allocate 200 million litas to the 380 million lita project. However, in April the government said it would have to reduce its investment in the project due to an unexpected hike in teachers' salaries.

Algirdas Raslanas, director of the physical education and sports department, said that the city of Vilnius would have to submit a new estimate of the project's costs to the Finance Ministry following the lawmakers' decision.
"The builders from the company Veikme have confirmed that once this is done, work could resume as soon as next week," Raslanas told the Baltic News Service on June 5.
Given the history of delays, the national stadium project would seem to be cursed, as each breakthrough is followed by another postponement.

The stadium in the Seskine district of Vilnius was on the drawing board for almost 15 years, only to see the light of day last summer, when the first groundwork began.
Amid much hoopla, Vilnius Mayor Juozas Imbrasas gave the official start of construction on Feb. 4, saying the 25,000-seat universal arena would become "a temple not only of Vilnius as the 2009 European capital of culture but all sports and arts of Lithuania."

At the time it was hoped that the stadium would be completed by June 2009 in order to host a song festival dedicated to the thousand year anniversary of the first mention of Lithuania.
Not surprisingly, the National Stadium has become a lightning rod of disagreement among political parties. Media reports have suggested that the stadium's construction may cost approximately 600-700 million litas (174-203 million euros), while Vilnius administration has claimed that the final price would be 380 million litas as planned.

In the second phase of the project, developers intend to build a commercial sports center in the adjacent territory. It will feature a multi-purpose sports hall with a swimming pool, an exercise center and a sports medicine clinic, one covered football field and open-air tennis and basketball courts.
The continual delays have harmed public perception of state-backed project. According to a recent poll, less than one-third of Lithuanians feel that the country's other high-profile sports project 's construction of the Kaunas sports and entertainment complex 's will be built by 2011 in time for the European Men's Basketball Championship.

In February Deloitte Lietuva won a tender for developing a management scheme for the stadium. The auditing and accounting firm said it would analyze foreign experience of municipal authorities taking part in the management of stadiums, work out scenarios of operator's activities in a feasibility study, and compile the main provisions of a management agreement.