San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Chinese Team Drafting National Stadium Plans

A team of Chinese engineers and architects is in Costa Rica working on a proposal for a new $60 million National Stadium, China’s most generous gift since the two countries tied the diplomatic knot last year.

The 11 Chinese professionals, who arrived late last week and plan to stay until April 30, will meet with Costa Rican authorities, visit notable architectural works, and study the site of the current National Stadium in La Sabana Park on the western edge of San José.

The old structure will be largely razed to make way for the new stadium, which will hold 45,000 people, compared to the current 18,000, and feature a soccer field, a track, more office space, an underground parking lot and a souvenir and food court.

Since the two countries established relations in June (TT, June 8, 2007), China has promised or given Costa Rica generous aid and investment, including $20 million in November to help rebuild towns destroyed by October flooding.

The two nations also are set to cooperate on scientific research, energy development and tourism.

The stadium is China’s heftiest investment to date, said Juan Carlos Bonilla, a press officer at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

Last Friday, the Chinese team met with Osvaldo Pandolfo, vice minister of sports, and Jorge Muñoz, director of the Costa Rican Sports and Recreation Institute (ICODER).

The team, which includes seven engineers, two architects, a professor and a translator, will submit a report to Chinese Ambassador Wang Xiaoyuan with recommendations for building plans.

“At the end (of the visit), we will know in black and white exactly what the stadium will look like,” Bonilla said.

The Chinese government will then choose a Chinese firm to build the stadium, expected to open in 2010.

It will dwarf Costa Rica’s largest existing stadium, the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in Tibás, north of San José, which holds 21,700 people. It will serve as a concert hall as well as a shelter during national emergencies.

Mindful that construction projects here can take decades, Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias has formed a high-level committee to speed work on the stadium. Soccer star Paulo Wanchope serves on the committee, as does Pandolfo, Vice Minister of Public Security Rafael Gutiérrez and Viviana Martín, vice minister of public works and transport.


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