Arena Vítkovice – major reconstruction and modernization

Known for many years as the Palace of Culture and Sports, Arena Vítkovice in Ostrava, eastern Czech Republic is undergoing a major period of reconstruction. The reason for the reconstruction is preparations for the 2004 IIHF World Championship which will be co-hosted by Arena Vítkovice in April and May 2004. The budget is in the amount of 700 million Czech crowns, which should help to improve the facilities of the arena according to the strict constraints of time. Part of the reconstruction is also an enlargement in the number of parking places in the neighbourhood of Vítkovice Arena – to up to 2000 spots.

Reconstruction of the arena is needed, even though it still one of the most modern facilities of its kind in the Czech Republic. Building was begun in 1979 and was finished in 1985, only 18 years ago.  Athletes started to use this arena a year later when an international competition in rhythmic gymnastics and then the Women’s World Volleyball Championship were held there. The arena was formally opened on 2 November 1986 when in front of a sold-out crowd, a friendly hockey game between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union was played. Czechoslovakia beat the Soviets 3-2 and the Ostrava native Jaromír Šindel was the hero of the game when the likes of Fetisov, Larionov, Makarov, and Kamenskij couldn’t get the puck past him.

In the same year, the home team from Vítkovice moved to the Palace of Culture and Sports from Ostrava’s Josef Kotas Stadium. The fans were at first a bit abashed by the huge interior of the arena but they have since learned to visit the arena in large numbers and have adopted it as their home. A helpful fact was that throughout the years Vítkovice played in the Czech Extraliga finals three times in the arena.  Unfortunately, the team has yet to capture the title.

Hockey games in the Palace of Culture and Sports continued to be popular also in 1993-94 when the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship was played there and several future NHL hockey stars introduced themselves to the international scene.  In 1998, the arena hosted the Czech Hockey All-Star Game.

Not only hockey is played in Vítkovice. It also hosted the World Handball Championship in February 1990 and from 1994-98, the IPB Czech Indoor Tennis Tournament where many world tennis stars showed their skills. Among others, Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Michael Stich, Wayne Ferreira, Jevgenyi Kafelnikov, Marat Safin, and Petr Korda came to play.

Tennis didn’t disappear from Vítkovice even after this tournament folded – the Czech Davis Cup Team hosted its opponents twice in Vitkovice. In 2002, it beat Brazil 5:0, and a year later lost a memorable battle with Russia 3:2.

In addition to all this, the Palace of Culture and Sports has also been the scene of several football tournaments, athletics competitions, the Czech National Table Tennis Championship, not to mention thrilling motor-races.

The Arena Vítkovice is not only a venue for sports either, many cultural events have taken place there, perhaps most noticeably, and certainly loudest of these being rock concerts. The legendary Deep Purple played in the arena in spring 1990, only three months after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Deep Purple were so taken by the fantastic atmosphere of the sold-out arena that they repeated their concert in Vítkovice three years later.  Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Slade, Jethro Tull, Aerosmith, and the Scorpions are other rock groups which have come and proved that hard rock music has many fans in Ostrava.
Also world famous performers of “softer” genres such as Sting, Julio Iglesias, and Bonnie Tyler have performed in Vítkovice. The famous Czech singer Jaromír Nohavica, although usually refusing to play in big arenas, has had a concert in Vítkovice. All Czech pop stars play concerts in Vítkovice, recently, for example, the popular folk group Čechomor with guests Lenka Dusilová and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Lucie, the most popular Czech rock group will play in Vítkovice Arena on
11 May 2003.
This concert by Lucie was one of the last big events before its reconstruction. The hockey team has already moved to an arena in Ostrava-Poruba, where they will play most of their upcoming season. A happy surprise for its loyal fans could be a return to the reconstructed arena in time for play-off games, of course on the condition that the home team qualifies...

The 2004 IIHF World Championship should be the first prestigious event of the newly created company ARENA VÍTKOVICE. The company was established by the city of Ostrava on 1 July 2002 and in addition to the former Palace of Culture and Sports it also includes the football stadium in Vítkovice as well as an athletics stadium and the hockey arena “Ledňáček”. The city of Ostrava itself is the owner of the ARENA VITKOVICE company and it holds 99% of the stock.
The current capacity of the Vítkovice Arena is 9 300 spectators for hockey games.  For concerts some 13 000 people could view the performance. The arena will keep the same parameters after reconstruction. Only during the 2004 IIHF World Championship will the capacity decrease to 9 100 viewers because of the placing of TV cameras and crews.

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