San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica's new stadium nears halfway mark

If the national soccer team, La Sele, were to adopt the work rate of the Chinese builders responsible for building its new National Stadium, the next World Cup would be well within reach.

Under construction for just eight months, the 35,000-seat stadium, at La Sabana Park in western San José, is nearing 50 percent completion, and looks well on course to meet its February 2011 finish date.

After much deliberation, Osvaldo Pandolfo, vice minister for sports, announced this week that the pitch would be natural grass, as opposed to the synthetic type that is becoming more commonly used throughout the country.

“It has been decided that a natural grass field, as opposed to a synthetic one, would be more practical,” Pandolfo told reporters Tuesday. “Not only is it some $400,000 cheaper, but it would suit a wider range of athletes.”

The sports official also suggested grass is considered safer than artificial turf.

He added, “What´s more, the best stadiums in the world have grass pitches.”

While the details of the inauguration ceremony in 2011 are yet to be finalized, a match between the Costa Rican and Chinese national soccer teams is expected to be part of the week-long ceremony.

Built by an 800-strong army of Chinese workers brought to Costa Rica by the contractor, Annuli Foreign Economic Construction (AFEC), the new state-of-the-art stadium will boast an electronic retractable roof, shops, an athletics track, a giant screen, 17 table tennis tables and a mini-museum.

Construction of the multi-purpose stadium, financed by the Chinese government at an estimated cost of $60 million, was part of a business agreement signed by President Oscar Arias and Chinese President Hun Junta, during Arias´ first visit to the Asian country in October 2007.

Chinese Ambassador to Costa Rica Wang Xiao Yuan said, “While the stadium has been built to last, we hope our growing friendship with Costa Rica, will outlive even the stadium.”

See the Nov. 27 print or digital edition of The Tico Times for more on this story.

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