Proposed designs of Stožice (L) and Bežigrad (R) stadiums
It is almost ten years since Slovenia caught the football fever en masse. When Slovenia qualified for EURO 2000, then-mayor of Ljubljana Vika Potočnik – carried away by the football fever – promied to build a new football staduim in Ljubljana. This promise turned out to be the first of three steps to her political demise. She made the promise in 1999 (methinks), but Ljubljana still doesn’t have a UEFA-regulation football stadium.
Four years later, Vika’s successor Danica Simšič tried in vain to find some sort of a solution to a hot-headed promise which by then became a prime political issue, not in the least because building a new stadium (or renovating the old one in Bežigrad part of Ljubljana) meant making some serious cash. Thus lobbying par excellence began, and Danica Simšič tried to accomodate everyone instead of pushing for one solution. So one week she was in favour of building a new stadium in Stožice (north outskirts of Ljubljana), but the very next week she was in favour of renovating the old one. It all depended on who got to her good ear on a particular week.
Danica’s stint as a mayor ended after four years, and by that time “Ljubljana Stadium” became a symbol of an incompetent city administration. Things even so far that some people claimed that the project itself was cursed, because everyone who touched it (on any level) more or less dug his/her own grave.
Enter current mayor Zoran Janković, who, staying true to his style promised – during election campaign – to both build a new stadium and renovate the old one. What he cleverly ommited is that he will have other people do it for him. Namely: the old stadium in Bežigrad was recently bought by Joc Pečečnik of Interblock, a self-made millionare who made his fortune by building automatic roulettes (to extreme happines of casino owners all over the world). Pečečnik already owns FC Interblock, which is not doing all that good in Slovene First League, but which will (if all goes well) have a wonderful new stadium in late 2009. The city of Ljubljana will hold a 28-percent stake in the company running the stadium, but will apparently stay out of Pečečnik’s way.
The new stadium in Stožice will be built in a similar way: The city of Ljubljana will invest real estate (worth approximately € 100 million), but the stadium and accompanying basketball hall will be built by a retail chain which will in turn be allowed to built a giant, 82.000 sq. metres shopping centre next to the sports objects which would then become city’s property. It’s kind of neat. I’ll let you build a shopping centre if you build me a stadium.
But why does Ljubljana need to stadiums? I don’t know, actually. We don’t even have a proper football club, let alone a national team worthy of its name. But everybody remembers the good old days, compiled in the video below, and hopes, that if we build it, they will come:
*apparently a misquote from Field of Dream starring Kevin Costner