Sport facilities undergoing boom

  • 2003-01-23
  • Aleksei Gunter

The nation's health and construction companies' bottom lines have both benefited from the sport facilities boom that started in Estonia last year and looks set to continue throughout the year.

One of the busiest hubs in this niche market is Tallinn's Rocca al Mare district, which quickly turned into a hive of new sports facility construction in autumn and winter 2002. A new ice-hall and tennis club appeared in December 2002 next to the Saku Hall, a general purpose arena itself completed one year earlier.

Hockey's growing popularity in Estonia, coupled with the personal enthusiasm of Priit Vilba, president of Estonia's Ice Hockey Union, have been the driving force behind the sport facilities construction boom.

For instance, Tallinn's Jeti Icehall, which opened in October 2000, witnessed a surge in popularity and proved to investors that there is a demand for sports-related fun in the Baltics.

Standing next to Saku Hall, the new Premia icehall cost nearly 60 million kroons ($4 million euros). Tallinna Kulmhoone, an ice-cream producer, is the hall's main sponsor.

Together with Saku Hall, Premia icehall is sufficiently equipped to host international ice hockey and figure skating events.

And for those who prefer tennis shoes to skates, the 50 million kroon Rocca al Mare Tennis Club offers an attractive alternative. Having formally opened its doors on Jan. 20, the club became the Baltic's largest tennis center: eight hard-surface indoor courts and four hard-surface and four clay-surface outdoor courts.

According to the program approved by the Ministry of Culture last year, Estonia must have a number of top-class sport facilities - e.g., a soccer and general purpose stadium, icehall and swimming pool - in order to be able to host international contests. While local and national budgets were directed to support construction and maintenance, most of the finance came from the private sector.

Hindrek Oks, an official from the Tallinn city administration's sport and youth department, praised the new facilities and lamented the fact that the city cannot afford to finance similar projects.

"It is great to see private capital in socially important projects like these," said Oks commenting on the Rocca al Mare Tennis Club opening.

In terms of overall sports facilities, Tallinn is well ahead of the rest of Estonia, boasting 197 sport buildings, 55 of which were built on private capital.

In the near term the investment in sports and fitness will continue. At the moment the FC Kotkas soccer stadium and Audentese sport center are under construction, while the Meka and Central ice-halls are being designed in the capital.

By 2007 Tallinn will have seven icehalls in operation.

Also, Tallinn will likely see a new judo center, a soccer stadium and a tennis center in the next several years.

Only the problem-stricken northeastern county Ida-Virumaa looks to be out of interest for sport facility developers. The county has only an indoor general purpose sports hall and still lacks a modern swimming pool, an icehall and a soccer stadium.