Work on stadium set to begin

Work on the Panathinaikos club’s prospective downtown Athens sports complex, to house the historic club’s soccer, basketball and volleyball divisions, appears set to begin following a constructive meeting yesterday between Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis and Thanassis Giannakopoulos, chief of the club’s amateur division, which had yet to agree on details regarding the project. Kaklamanis and Giannakopoulos agreed on all terms, now more favorable for the club’s amateur division, but legal work still needs to be completed. The Athens club’s amateur division board is expected to convene in the last 10 days of this month to give its approval to the project. Once that stage has been completed, all final contracts will be signed. «We’ve agreed and will have signed by the end of the month. Certain details being handled by legal services are pending, as is the amateur division’s final approval, which is on the way,» Giannakopoulos said. Club officials hope that the sports complex, to feature a 40,000-capacity, fully sheltered soccer stadium with double- and triple-layer stands, will be ready on time for Panathinaikos’s centennial year in 2008. Work on the project, to be located in the downtown district of Votanikos, about a kilometer from Omonia Square, was supposed to have begun earlier this year. «We will make an effort to not fall behind in the time schedule, which foresees completion of all work within 2008. It’s going to be tough, but we’re obliged to fight for this,» Kaklamanis told reporters following a one-hour meeting with Giannakopoulos. The Athens mayor said bulldozers would move onto the project’s site early today to begin demolition work. Transactions for required land purchases, by City Hall from the National Bank of Greece, are expected to be completed next week. The complex, club officials say, will rank as the country’s leading stadium and one of the top in Europe. It has been budgeted at 127 million euros. Club and municipal officials have pledged to transform Panathinaikos’s traditional soccer base – the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium, located in downtown Ambelokipi, one of the capital’s most congested neighborhoods – into badly needed parkland. For next season, the Panathinaikos soccer club intends to use the stadium for its domestic home games. The team’s European commitments will be hosted at the Olympic Stadium, as the club’s traditional base no longer meets the standards set by UEFA, European soccer’s governing body.

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