Prague's Stvanice to see extensive changes as recreational park

Stvanice island

Prague's Stvanice is the Czech capital's largest island and a site with a remarkable history. It houses a famous tennis court where tennis star Martina Navratilova helped her US team beat Czechoslovakia in a legendary match in the Fed Cup in 1986, and is also home to an original wooden stadium - now an historic monument. It is there that Czechoslovak ice hockey players won their first world championship title in 1947. Still, Stvanice is not just about the past: this week city hall councillors finally gave the green light for a project that should turn into an even more important site in the future: a recreational area open to all.

Councillor and Deputy Mayor Pavel Klega discussed some of the specifics:

"Stvanice is Prague's biggest island at 15 hectares and it gained its 'genus loci' in the days when it was the scene of tense match-ups between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. The sport, of course, was hockey. We've known for a long time that Stvanice needed revitalisation, but the floods of 2002 postponed the project, chosen in a tender. After that, the Culture Ministry stepped in, confirming the Winter Stadium as a protected site. Those are some changes we've seen, which had to be taken into account."

The investor in charge of co-ordinating renovation and new construction at Stvanice will be the German company Meridian Spa, and overall expenditure in the project is expected to total over 40 million USD. City hall is confidant that the changes will be worth it. There will be new volleyball and basketball courts as well as courts for the much-loved "nohejbal" known in English as soccer tennis, as well as playgrounds, a pier for canoeists or kayakers, a cyclocross circuit and a half-pipe for skateboarders. In recent years Stvanice become a popular site for its skate park.

Because the area lies smack in the centre of a potential flood zone on the Vltava, Pavel Klega stressed that the revamped proposal now takes all norms for potential flooding into account. According to the councillor:

"All of the sites... have to meet flood standards. That means the construction of buildings that take flooding into account, so as not to dangerously block flood waters. But, those are standard for all parts of Prague. After the project is completed Stvanice will gain new purpose and meaning in the centre of town, open to all Praguers and all visitors, including those who work every day in the area. The whole project complements wider the 'revitalisation' of key city areas like Holesovice and Karlin. Stvanice has a major advantage, right in the centre of town."

By the way, for those who know Prague, Stvanice is the island you cross on the bridge that basically runs between Florenc and Vltavska metro stations. Published plans for the new Stvanice - expected to be completed within five years' time, suggest some surprises too. The purpose of one building - being referred to as "Meridian site" - has apparently not yet been disclosed, but it is thought that it could serve as a possible ice rink as well as a site for a "Hockey Hall of Fame".