Deal signed for new stadium

A deal was signed yesterday between Panathinaikos and the Athens City Council that is expected to lead to the construction very shortly of a new sports complex in central Athens that will house the historic sports club’s soccer, basketball and volleyball stadiums. In comments following the signing ceremony with Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, Yiannis Vardinoyiannis, owner of Panathinaikos soccer club, one of the country’s two biggest, said Panathinaikos would soon have «the best stadium in Greece, and one of the best in Europe.» The agreement for the complex, to be located in the Votanikos district, approximately 1 kilometer from Omonia Square in downtown Athens, had been in the pipeline for the past couple of years. Prior to the delays, Panathinaikos was hoping to celebrate its centennial year, this year, at its new home. The project, currently budgeted at around 90 million euros, is expected to take 19 months to complete once bulldozers begin work, which could be next month. The overall plan involves converting the Athens club’s traditional base, the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium in the densely populated Ambelokipi district, where the Panathinaikos soccer team is currently based, into a much-needed park. Kaklamanis yesterday reiterated an earlier pledge to convert the old stadium into a park with some space set aside for a club museum. «For Athens, this means that a vast green lung will be created within the city’s urban fabric, in the Ambelokipi area,» he said. The City of Athens will partly fund Panathinaikos’s new sports complex and, in return, will take possession of the plot of land on which the old stadium stands. The outdated Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium no longer meets international soccer requirements, as set by UEFA, the sport’s governing body in Europe. Not long ago, UEFA removed the Athens stadium from its list of venues eligible to host games for the Champions League, Europe’s premier club-level competition. Vardinoyiannis took the opportunity yesterday to lash out at club detractors and parties interested in buying into the soccer club – who have suggested that he could be performing better as top administrator. «Many people are upset that Panathinaikos is top of the league. It is a common phenomenon for artificial crises to be created and that’s what is happening now,» he said. «Panathinaikos is top, whether some people like it or not.»