The O2 universum is a new multifunctional congress and cultural centre that is being developed on the site of the existing O2 arena in Prague, the Czech Republic. Scheduled to open in the second half of 2019, the universum will seek to better utilise space that had been created for a ‘small arena’ when the O2 arena first opened in 2004.

The original intention was to have a training area next to the O2 arena, which would be utilised as a second facility for Prague and Ostrava’s staging of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s 2004 World Championship.

However, during the construction of the O2 arena, the small arena project was shelved and the space was used only for storage purposes. In the fourth part of our Project Profile series, Robert Schaffer, chairman and chief executive of O2 arena owner and operator, Bestsport, discussed with TheStadiumBusiness a project which seeks to provide new business opportunities for the Czech capital.

TheStadiumBusiness: What is the projected cost, timeline and capacity for the development?

Robert Schaffer: “The new multifunctional congress and cultural centre named O2 universum is directly linked to the O2 arena from the south, has four floors and total area of almost 50,000m².  O2 universum will have 21 halls of different sizes available, with a total capacity for 10,000 visitors.

“The largest hall with a capacity of up to 4,500 people will be used as a space for organising medium-sized concerts and sporting events. Overall there will be 13,000m² created for exhibitions and commercial use. The construction budget is about CZK1.2bn (£40.9m/€46.6m/$54.8m).”

TheStadiumBusiness: Who are the main partners behind the project?

RS: “The project is led by Bestsport company, the operator of O2 arena and a member of PPF Group. PPF group invests in diverse industries ranging from banking and financial services through telecommunications, biotechnology, insurance, real estate and agriculture. O2 universum was designed by the ATIP studio of architects Martin and Vladimír Vokatý, who both served as the O2 arena architects.”

TheStadiumBusiness: What is the overriding vision behind the project and what key goals does it have to achieve?

RS: “The main goal is to bring together congress events that have not been in Prague before – either because of the number of participants or due to the requirements for exhibition area associated with the congress. O2 universum will be the place for international congresses which have not existed in the Czech Republic before.

“Thanks to the possibility of linking the newly completed complex with the existing O2 arena on all four planned floors, we have space for up to 28,000 visitors with plenty of exhibition space, restaurants of all categories and almost unlimited possibilities for any client.

“The project benefits from the exceptional location of the city of Prague. Although it is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, at the moment Prague is not able to satisfy all the requests from congresses and huge international events due to lack of capability – that’s our challenge to fill this space.”

TheStadiumBusiness: What would you highlight as the main design features of the project? How will it seek to break new ground when compared to other similar projects in Europe and across the world?

RS: “The project benefits from the location of the city of Prague. The additional benefits are the location close to the city centre and the possibility to use of all the city activities of Prague. The congress centre is supported by the immediate vicinity of the O2 arena which allows use of the overall capacity of the area – around 28,000 visitors. There are more investments planned in the area, such as the hotel (set to open in 2020) and two administrative facilities, which will create a unique background for organising congresses of global scope.”

TheStadiumBusiness: What key design features are being used to ensure the Universum fulfils its multi-purpose goal?

RS: “Individual spaces are defined by mobile constructions to vary the layout of the space in order to satisfy different and specific requests of our clients and promoters.”

TheStadiumBusiness: What sort of technology will be incorporated into the project?

RS: “The project involves a large number of technologies that correspond to modern building construction trends, including energy management.”

TheStadiumBusiness: What have been the key challenges associated with the project to date and how have they been overcome?

RS: “As the process of preparation was a really long one and we included a lot of specialists in it – architects, employers of O2 arena, promoters – we were able to define all the details necessary for the construction to be as effective as possible. The complex itself is built on the existing base, which was originally developed in 2004, so there are no major issues or challenges to manage. Just to follow the timeline.”

TheStadiumBusiness: What are your hopes for the future of the project? What are the immediate next steps/priorities for the project at present?

RS: “The architectural design of O2 universum has been developing for more than a year and half. The aim of the project was to design the centre to be partly determined by the existing building and it follows the original perimeter walls. The reconstruction of the building began in October 2017. Currently most of the demolition works have been completed and the project is moving into the construction phase.”

TheStadiumBusiness: What kind of events will you be seeking to attract to the Universum when completed?

RS: “The aim is to host international congresses as well as corporate events, Christmas parties etc, but of course there will be cultural events, concerts or sporting events for which the O2 arena is too large.”

TheStadiumBusiness: How will the new development provide benefits from a revenue-generating perspective, and are there any projections on this front?

RS: “The analysis and financial projections were made before the construction process started and we hope that the ongoing development will increase the profitability of the O2 arena operator – Bestsport.”

Images: Bestsport