Ice rink waiting for OK

  • 2003-01-23

Construction of the multi-functional icehall for the 2006 World Hockey Championship in Riga will get under way before June 1, while the area surrounding the stadium facility is expected to undergo major development.

Vilnis Baltins, CEO of Multihalle, the firm that will implement the construction project, said at a news conference Jan. 17 that the project was waiting for a decision from the Riga City Council to grant the land. Once that decision is made, the company will be ready to start construction.

"The required 25 million euros will be there," added Baltins.

In Baltins' opinion, there will be enough time to complete construction of the stadium. Normally icehalls of similar size are built in 18 months, whereas Multihalle will have 27 months for construction as the icehall has to be completed until August 2005, said Baltins.

The construction and development plan for the area around Skanstes street in Riga where the icehall will be located was also presented at the news conference. Apart from the multi-functional icehall, the plan also envisages the construction of a 24-story five-star hotel, a shopping center and 10 office buildings.

The project will be carried out by Metala Buvju Sistemas, the cooperation partner of Multihalle. Total costs for the project are estimated at $250 million - $300 million.

One of the authors of the project, David W. Bell, said that development of territory surrounding the icehall will be closely linked to plans to build the Ziemelu Tunelis (northern tunnel) and the west-northeast highway in Riga.

"These will be the gates of Riga when driving into the city from the north or via Ziemelu Tunelis," said Bell, adding that a similar project was carried out in Edinburgh and that the area there continues developing even though the public was skeptical at the beginning.

The entire Skanstes Street development project could be completed in 10-15 years, said Bell.

He rejected concerns that Riga does not need new office space right now, saying ever more foreign companies will be entering Latvia after its accession to the European Union.

Bell also described as groundless concerns that the creation of a new business area will entail transport problems. Bell said such a massive inflow of people - 20,000 people daily - can only be expected after the project is completed, but by that time both the problem of access roads and crossing over the River Daugava would be solved.

MBS director Janis Brinkmanis said that project partners had agreed the multi-functional icehall will be built first, with the hotel and shopping center construction to be completed simultaneously.

"It would be very good if the hotel and the shopping center were opened during the ice hockey championships. All the three objects are very closely linked," he said.

Baltins said the project financing issues would be specified by the end of January. He added that the project has been presented to Riga City Council senior officials, who praised it.

"They were satisfied with what they saw," he said.