Helsinki's venerable Olympic Stadium to receive complete overhaul by 2018-2019
Minister of Culture and Sport: “The idea is that the stadium will be in top shape for the next 50-60 years.”
In the next few years, the Helsinki Olympic Stadium and its surroundings will get a complete overhaul.
The aim is to complete the roofing of the stadium by 2015. In its entirety the modernisation of the iconic 74-year-old sporting venue would be finished by 2018 or 2019.
The project took a crucial step forward on Wednesday, when the state decided to take part in the modernisation of the structure and committed to covering half of the costs.
The rest of the tab would be picked up by the City of Helsinki. The renovation undertaking will commence already this year.
“I feel like a winner”, rejoiced Stadium Foundation managing director Maija Innanen after having heard of the government’s decision.
“This is the most important event in the history of the stadium after its completion in 1938 and the hosting of the Summer Olympics in 1952.”
The renovation project will be comprehensive, to say the least.
In addition to adding roofing above the stands (today only the main A-Stand and the D-Stand facing it are covered), the idea is to replace the stadium’s wooden benches with individual seats, revamp the outside areas of the structure, and provide office space for a cluster of various Finnish sports organisations at the northern end of the building.
Minister of Culture and Sport Paavo Arhinmäki (Left Alliance) compares the upcoming renovation project to the 2004 overhaul of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
In the minister’s view, the stadium undertaking is important for the entire Finnish sports community.
“I consider it crucial that we will be able to stage important international sporting events. What kind of country is it that does not have a proper stadium?” Arhinmäki commented.
“In its present state the stadium is hopelessly outdated. It would make no sense to carry out only a small-scale touching up job. The idea is that the stadium will be in tip-top shape for the next 50-60 years.”
According to a report by the Stadium Foundation, the renovation of the structure would cost EUR 197 million, but the overall figure will be defined more precisely later on.
At present it looks as though the overall cost of the project would land in the same ballpark with the budget of the Berlin Olympic Stadium renovation, which cost just over EUR 240 million.
Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen reckons that the city will be able to cover its half of the costs.
“Traditionally the city has adopted a positive attitude towards this type of 50-50 financing models”, Pajunen said.
”In spite of the fact that no decision exists as yet, I believe that the financing proposal will pass through the decision-making machinery without undue problems.”
According to Pajunen, the Helsinki City Council will be presented with a proposal, according to which the city would pay half of the project’s net outlay, in other words, around EUR 100 million.
The government's portion of the funding would come from lottery funds, and according to Arhinmäki, the Ministry of Finance will exempt the undertaking from VAT.
“Otherwise we would be taxing the lottery funds to add to the state budget”, Arhinmäki explained.
A previous similar undertaking in Finland financed from lottery funds was the Helsinki Opera House, which was completed in 1993.
According to Innanen, the refurbished stadium would be finished by the beginning of 2019.
“We will proceed speedily but without compromising the quality of the work. Half a year here or there is not the end of the world”, Innanen concluded.
The Finnish Football Association is planning to apply for the staging of the 2018 or 2019 UEFA Europa League final at the renewed Helsinki Olympic Stadium.
The venue currently has a capacity of around 39,000, with rather more being possible for concerts, when the grass area can also be used.
As a footballing venue (naturally, it was designed primarily for athletics), the Olympic Stadium does leave something to be desired: the spectators are a long way from the action, with eight or nine lanes of running track between crowd and players.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Major Olympic Stadium renovation "unavoidable” (8.2.2012)
At least EUR 200 million required for much-needed complete overhaul of Helsinki Olympic Stadium (13.1.2012)
It´s not exactly "Fortress Helsinki" - put the blame on the Stadium (13.9.2011)
Most recognisable Finnish building turns 70 today (12.6.2008)
Helsinki Olympic Stadium (Wikipedia)