Work has commenced to deliver a new National Stadium for Lithuania through the demolition of a previously aborted project in Vilnius that has been labelled a “national disgrace”.
The demolition of the unfinished stadium is expected to be complete in a few months, paving the way for the new venue to rise in its place. The demolition project has been priced at €300,000 (£250,000/$339,000), with the new stadium set to cost €39.2m.
“The ruins of the unfinished stadium, which has stood in Vilnius for many decades and turned into a kind of national disgrace, are being demolished,” said Vilnius Deputy Mayor Valdas Benkunskas, according to Lithuanian broadcaster LRT. “This is the introduction to the construction of a multifunctional complex.”
Construction of the original National Stadium started in 1987, but was suspended six years later. In 2008, a further €33m was invested into the project only for it to be stopped again in 2015 after the Public Procurement Office (VPT) declared its tender illegal.
Benkunskas said: “It simply came to our notice then. In order to revitalise this facility, another path was chosen at the beginning of the project. What is here is simply no longer appropriate.”
Vilnius City Municipality in October hailed a “new start” in the troubled process to deliver a new National Stadium. The capital’s Municipality said it had agreed on a revised concession deal having addressed comments from the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport.
Located on the Šeškinė Hill site, the multi-functional complex will be anchored by a 15,000-seat stadium, with 15 other sports facilities provided including an athletics track, six basketball courts, three football training grounds, handball, gymnastics and boxing halls.
The new complex will include a sports museum, cultural and educational centre, library, as well as a kindergarten, which has been identified as a pressing need for Vilnius. Benkunskas said clearing the existing site should take up to four months, with the construction of the new National Stadium to begin afterwards. A deadline of May 2025 has been set for completion.
While the stadium itself will cost €39.2m, the total cost of the multifunctional complex will rise to €94.6m through its additional elements. Adding its operation contract over a 25-year term, the entire project is expected to come with a price tag of €160m.
Vilnius’ Mayor, Remigijus Šimašius, wrote on his Facebook account: “The celebration will be when the opening takes place, but today is also a very important day. The (stadium) skeleton is being dismantled that was irresponsibly started and irresponsibly completed, and has become the most famous ruins in Lithuania.”
In November 2020, Vilnius Municipality extended an olive branch to the VPT in an effort to get the project back on course, after a court ruled that it could recommence a tender process. The new National Stadium project was suspended back in May 2020 after the VPT took action against a proposed concession agreement with Axis Industries, the winning bidder, and BaltCap, the financial investor in the project.
The project design has been led by Populous, in association with local partner Cloud, since 2017, with the company currently contracted to complete the design and take the venture through to the end of construction. The project was originally intended to be completed in 2023.
Image: Vilnius City Municipality