Environmental team reacts to stadium site

A team of urban environment specialists, reacting to a meeting by government, municipal and town-planning officials on the possible construction of a new soccer stadium in Athens, said yesterday that such an option would destroy plans for a metropolitan park at the location. Following Tuesday’s meeting, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, backed by Development Minister Vasso Papandreou and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, described the talks as «decisive.» Seeking a new home ground, Panathinaikos, one of the country’s two biggest soccer clubs, has, in recent days, revived an older proposal for permission to construct its stadium at the military-owned Goudi Park, and is seeking State support for the idea. The club originally dropped the idea after residents, preferring a park, reacted strongly. «The creation of a sports complex at Goudi would forever eliminate the prospect of a metropolitan park,» the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA)’s Urban Environment Laboratory announced. Panathinaikos, currently based at its traditional 15,000-capacity Leoforos Alexandras Stadium, in a densely built-up part of downtown Athens with little capacity for expansion, wants a bigger, more modern stadium. Venizelos, following Tuesday’s meeting, said the Leoforos Alexandras Stadium would «be given to Athenians as a park,» while also noting that a soccer stadium would not detract from the planned park. Goudi park’s wider area, which was officially classified as metropolitan park land in 1985, already hosts hospitals, both civilian and military, three ministries, NTUA buildings, and other educational institutions. The site will be used for pentathlon events and tennis during the Athens Olympics, while a press center, to be converted into a student housing unit following the Olympics, is under development.

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