San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New Stadium Nears Halfway Mark

If La Sele (Costa Rica’s national soccer team) 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 west of 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.

On Tuesday, Pandolfo told reporters, “It has been decided that a natural grass field, as opposed to a synthetic one, would be more practical. Not only is it some $400,000 cheaper, but it would suit a wider range of athletes. While it hasn’t been proven scientifically, it is commonly believed that athletes are less prone to injury on natural grass.

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, among other things, 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.”

Questions still remain about the limited parking space for the 35,000 spectators expected to descend on La Sabana Park for international soccer games, although Pandolfo assured that the possibility of a park-and-ride shuttle service is under consideration.

“There will be 400 spaces next to the stadium, and we are currently speaking to Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) to see if we can use its nearby 200 spaces normally reserved for ICE office workers,” Pandolfo said. “We are considering a shuttle service and, of course, we shall be providing plenty of space for bicycles, as is the custom in China, which we hope will be used here.”

A contract for the maintenance of the stadium and pitch, once the Chinese workforce returns home, also is still out for bid, although local firms were reported to be under consideration.

“What these workers have managed to do in seven months is nothing short of remarkable, and we must hope that one day we, too, will have similar expertise,” Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias said. “I hope that this government will be remembered not just for improving education, but also for bringing a first-world stadium to Costa Rica.”

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