Elaionas: Scoring green goals

Plans to build a new stadium for Panathinaikos soccer club, currently located on Alexandras Avenue, on a site in the industrial district of Elaionas, just 2 kilometers – but a world away – from the Acropolis were outlined this week by a senior club official who promised the new venue would be the «greenest» stadium in Europe. The plan includes provisions for a large area of park land, bioclimatic design, extensive recycling, collection of rainwater and graywater for cleaning the stands and watering the surrounding, walkways and bicycle paths. If these eventuate, the site will certainly rival Europe’s best projects of its kind, two of which – Porto’s Dragao Stadium and the Amsterdam Arena, Ajax’s home ground – were also presented at the same event, «Urban Development and Restoration of Run-down Areas,» organized by Agoraideon, an independent think tank. Tomas Salgado, CEO of Risco SA, the designers of the 50,000 capacity Dragao Stadium in Porto, Portugal, said the aim in designing the venue was to show how a sports center can become the heart of a restored industrial area. The main goal, he said, was to create a new center that would attract economic activities, be a high-quality residential area and have connections to the surrounding urban area, all in a financially sustainable way. The 50-million-euro cost of all public spaces had been covered by the landowners who ceded 22 percent of their building rights for the purpose. An existing 700-meter-wide, tree-lined avenue was extended right up to the new stadium, which was also encircled by another road that linked it to a nearby highway, separated from the stadium by the train station that serves it. The circular stadium includes a plaza area with leisure and entertainment facilities that are open around the clock, seven days a week. These include a clinic, bingo hall, megastore, cafe, restaurant, offices and a club museum. «Soccer crowds have changed and now include all socioeconomic groups, ages and members of both sexes, so stadiums have to change, be made more comfortable,» said Salgado. Henk Markerink, CEO of the Amsterdam Arena, Ajax’s home ground, agreed. «Older soccer stadiums in Europe were built in districts to serve the working classes but were not economic centers. They were not comfortable places. This has changed now,» he said, comparing the way stadiums can become a focal point in much the same way that cathedrals formed the nucleus of cities in the past. «Every ‘logistical knot’ will create economic development,» said Markerink. Private enterprise also played a large part in the development of that area of Amsterdam, which had become rife with unemployment, crime and drugs. The new stadium was designed as a multifunctional concept. «The more traffic you generate, the greater the economic attraction,» he added. The project included new waterways, a housing complex, a 5,000-seat music hall, a cinema multiplex and shopping mall, among other leisure and entertainment facilities that see a total of 2.5 to 3 million visitors a year. The stadium is not only used for sports but for concerts (including Madonna and the Rolling Stones) and dance parties, such as the famous annual Sensation White dance festival. Evangelos Samaras, board member of the Panathinaikos Soccer Club charged with responsibility for the new stadium, said the move from Alexandras Avenue would first of all create a continuous green space from Lycabettus Hill to the Ambelokipi area on the other side of the avenue, providing residents of one of the highest-density housing districts of Athens with much-needed breathing space. The new 900-hectare site at Elaionas, bounded by Kifissou, Constantinoupoleos, Pireos and Athinon streets and Iera Odos and Petrou Ralli Street is now home to 2,400 industries, mostly housed in illegally built structures. «There will be over 10 hectares of green space (two-thirds the size of the National Gardens) easily accessible to the public. The stadium itself will be a reference point for the redevelopment and aesthetic improvement of the urban area and will serve as an impetus for development,» said Samaras, adding that the new development, which is to include Athens’s new City Hall and is close to a metro station, could «change the destiny of the whole area.»