Latvia chooses hockey arena builder

  • 2002-04-18
  • Nick Coleman

A consortium from the United States, France and Switzerland will build Latvia's main arena for the 2006 World Ice Hockey Championship, the president of the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation said April 15.

The proposal by IMS Studio 6 was chosen because it "offered the biggest investment," said Kirovs Lipmans, the ice-hockey federation's president.

The consortium will invest $400 million in the arena under a deal to be signed within a month, he said.

The IMS Studio 6 bid is based on plans by Riga City Council to build a bridge to improve access to the proposed site on Lucavsala Island in Riga's Daugava River, said federation spokesman Martins Pagodkins.

The structure will also include a hotel, swimming pool and casino and will host other sporting and entertainment events after the championship, said Pagodkins.

A smaller, 6,000-seat arena will be either built from scratch or based on an existing structure and will continue to function as an ice rink after the tournament, Pagodkins added.

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel earlier this month said Latvia had to speed up its building program or risk losing the annual event.

"Latvia doesn't have a nice arena, and we have to put pressure here after the experience we have had in Prague and Russia," Fasel told reporters after a meeting in Riga with Prime Minister Andris Berzins, who is heading the championship's organizing committee.

If work does not go ahead the event could still be moved to another country, said Fasel, noting that preparations for the 2000 championship in Russia had been "a nightmare" and that the Czech Republic's hosting of the tournament has been postponed from 2003 to 2004.

He expressed optimism, however, that the two arenas would be built on time and advised that construction should begin in the summer of next year.

"We are not somewhere in the bush in Latvia, and I know we'll be really welcome in this hockey-crazy country," said Fasel.