VILNIUS - The Kaunas City Council passed on March 4 a protocol on the construction of a 20 million euro basketball arena and recreational complex on Nemunas Island as part of its attempt to rejuvenate the local market and boost chances for Lithuania, European basketball champions, to host the continental championship in three years' time.
Speaking to journalists, Mayor Arvydas Garbaravicius said that, according to the preliminary agreement, the 10,000-seat sports arena would be financed from various sources, with the city of Kaunas providing 35 percent of funds. The rest would come from private investors and possibly EU institutions.
The mayor mentioned former NBA star and current Zalgiris center Arvydas Sabonis as one of the project's investors.
Earlier this year Lithuania, which won the European championship last September, offered to host the 2007 European Men's Basketball Champ-ionship.
A final decision is expected from the International Basketball Federation by June, and it is clear that any decision favorable to Lithuania will directly depend upon the quality of the venues the Baltic country can provide.
Should Lithuania be allowed to host the games, the two main venues for the championship would be the new arena currently under construction in Vilnius and the proposed arena in Kaunas.
But even without the championship Lithuania's second largest city is in need of a new arena, as the Kaunas Sports Hall, home to Zalgiris, has only 4,000 seats and will not be able to meet requirements set by the Union of European Basketball Leagues, which will soon demand that all Euroleague games take part in arenas with no fewer than 8,000 seats.