City dismisses proposed demolition of Strahov Stadium

Strahov stadium

The City of Prague has wasted no time reacting to a proposal made public this week that the famous Strahov Stadium, overlooking the city, could be demolished to pave the way for new development. The idea was floated by the Czech Sports Association, which owns ten percent of the stadium and underlying buildings and grounds. But the city, which owns the rest and was not consulted, says flat out it is not going to happen.

Strahov stadium
Strahov stadium, located in Prague 6, is the biggest in the world, seating a whopping 220,000. But the purpose it once served – massive synchronized gymnastics displays during the First Republic and the Communist periods, has long been left in the dust. Briefly it enjoyed a resurgence when it was used for rock concerts – most famously the Rolling Stones’ show in 1990 shortly after the revolution, but today the huge arena (which houses eight soccer fields) is used mainly as a training ground for football club Sparta Prague.

Strahov stadium
This week, representatives of the Czech Sports Association (which owns ten percent) suggested the stadium, which is a protected historic site, could be demolished in order to sell the grounds for new development – a project that would no doubt be worth billions of crowns. But paradoxically, the association (which wants to raise more funds for Czech sport) consulted no one, not even the city of Prague, the majority owner of the remaining 90 percent. City officials – including the mayor – have already written off the idea as “nonsense”. Mayor Pavel Bém in the past strongly backed Prague bidding for the summer Olympics and some have suggested that Strahov would be perfect for a new Olympic village.

Still, it isn’t the first time specialists have imagined the city without Strahov: one Prague architectural firm won an urban planning competition two years ago, with a proposal suggesting the city pull the stadium down. Matyáš Sedlák is one of the architects who took part:

“The competition was a visionary one and we soon came to the conclusion that Strahov stadium was in many respects a barrier. The stadium, as is, no longer serves a practical purpose: you no longer have massive Sokol or Spartakiáda displays and that means that if it stays it will have to be converted: into apartments or something else. But since it would no longer be a stadium either, we thought it would be best if it were demolished. There is huge potential there for the city.”

Mr Sedlák suggests that the grounds could be used for new homes, cultural activities, green space, and much more, although such a massive project would require clear direction and supervision, taking ten – 15 years to fully complete. As it stands, without city hall’s support, the idea will never get off the ground.