AEK’s stadium is back on track

AEK soccer club’s halted plans for a new soccer stadium were put back into motion by an amendment to a sports bill that was overwhelmingly ratified in Parliament yesterday. Both the governing PASOK and main opposition New Democracy parties provided their backing to an amendment that effectively wipes out stubborn resistance to the project by local authorities over environmental and business concerns. Work on the state-of-the-art stadium, to include a shopping complex and conference center, has remained stagnant for months as a result of the Nea Philadelphia Municipality’s refusal to issue a building permit for the project in the north of Athens. Mayor Nikos Adamopoulos has argued that the project would generate increased local traffic exceeding the capacity of existing road infrastructure, threaten local businesses, and bite out a chunk of an adjacent park. Subsequently, the AEK club, which demolished its Nikos Goumas Stadium last summer, has been unable to proceed with work on its replacement. The club is currently using the Ano Liosia Stadium as a temporary replacement. «I believe that historic teams should play at their historic home grounds. The amendment in Parliament imposes strict environmental regulations for AEK’s stadium,» Deputy Culture Minister Giorgos Lianis, in charge of the country’s sports portfolio, said yesterday. Among the stricter terms cited by Lianis were a reduction in the project’s permitted height from 35 to 30 meters and less total floor space for the complex’s commercial wing, from 24,000 to 20,000 square meters. The government, lagging behind in polls ahead of national elections due in several months time, had more good news to offer yesterday on pending stadium issues for some of the country’s bigger and most popular clubs. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos promised that a solution on a new stadium for Panathinaikos, one of the country’s two biggest clubs, would be reached by the end of this year. The club, currently based at its historic yet limited-capacity stadium on Alexandras Avenue in central Athens, is pressing for a license to build an expanded replacement. However, the government’s response has been vague until now. Venizelos noted yesterday that the government’s proposal for Panathinaikos would entail expanding the bigger new stadium toward an adjacent petrol station. Reports said the club has already made plans to acquire the neighboring business. The government also gave its approval to plans for a new stadium to house the popular Thessaloniki team Iraklis. Spyros Vougias, a PASOK MP for Thessaloniki, submitted a revised plan specifying the project’s building regulations. The government also transferred control of the Alexandreio Stadium to the Aris basketball club.