A group of Swiss investors has submitted a proposal to the city of Riga to build a $400 million sports complex for the 2006 Ice Hockey World Championship in Latvia.
According to Goran Takatch, director of IMS Studio 6, the Swiss company that is brokering the deal for the investment group, the arena would be used not only for hockey and other sporting events but also for large concerts and conventions.
"It isn't profitable to build an arena for just one purpose, so we are proposing to build an 'omni-event' complex that would include an 18,000-seat arena, a large shopping mall, a parking garage capable of accommodating 750 cars and a hotel," said Tekatch.
Kirovs Lipmans, president of the Latvian Hockey Federation, said there were currently no arenas in Latvia suitable for the world championship to be played in. The tournament requires one arena capable of seating 6,000 spectators and another that would seat 12,000.
The arena would be built on a "build, operate and transfer" agreement, said Tekatch. The investors would cover construction costs and then collect all the profits that the arena made until the construction costs are covered.
After they have recouped their money, they would share the profits with the city of Riga for a period of time – likely the same amount of time that it took them to cover the construction costs – after which the arena would become the sole property of the city.
The Riga City Council has proposed three possible sites for the two arenas – Lucavsala, an island located on the Daugava River; on Skanstas Street; and in an area between Vilkainas Street, Vienibas Avenue and Jelgavas Street.
A group of about 30 people gathered at the proposed Skanstas Street site to protest the development of the area. They say it's home to a large population of hedgehogs and birds, and that building an arena there would destroy the animals' habitat.
Many of the protesters also have gardens in the proposed area. The Riga City Council has promised to give them gardens on the outskirts of the city should an arena be built there.
According to the newspaper Diena, Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars responded to the protest by saying that "a healthy environment is not only carrots growing in the center of the city, but also the possibility of having a healthy lifestyle and exercise."
Lipmans said the City Council was deliberating over whether or not to invest money in the smaller arena. A Latvian company, Multihalle, is expected to submit a proposal to build the large arena soon.
Although his company has still not completed its final prospectus of the project, Takatch estimates that architectural designs for the sports complex would take a year to finish and that the actual construction would take around two years.