Costa Rica’s New National Stadium Set for Inauguration

By Paige, Nicaragua, June 2011

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Gracefully open to the capital’s crisp tropical highland climate is this remarkable new structure, the most modern (if not quite the largest) sports venue in Central America: Costa Rica’s magnificent new National Stadium. Built in just 20 months at an estimated cost of some US$105 million, the Estadio Nacional will host more than 35,000 fans during its first FIFA football (soccer) match on March 29, which pits the Costa Rica National Team against Argentina.

The first exposition game, however, will take place a few days earlier: a friendly match between the national teams of Costa Rica and the nation that donated and built the stadium, the People’s Republic China. Following former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias’ surprising diplomatic break with Taiwan in 2007, China began investing heavily in the Central American nation. The state-of-the-art National Stadium was designed to be the centerpiece of this new relationship.

As you may imagine, the stadium’s construction has been a bit controversial. Former Culture Minister Guido Sáenz, for example, was unimpressed with the location, within San José’s most important greenspace, Parque La Sabana—a problem potentially exacerbated by a lack of sufficient parking. Moreover, many Costa Ricans were surprised when hundreds of workers were brought over from China, rather than hired locally.

Regardless, as the finishing touches are being added to the sparkling new stadium, most Costa Ricans are unabashedly excited about the new venue, which features natural grass two huge HDTV screens, a sports museum, office suites, a state-of-the-art sound stage, and facilities for several other sports. Other enthusiastic fans include the US and Mexican national teams, who consistently suffered embarrassing defeats on the old Saprissa Stadium’s synthetic turf, which they termed a "den of horrors."

In addition to the much-anticipated sporting events, the National Stadium’s opening ceremonies will also include performances by salsa singers Gilberto Santa Rosa and Victor Manuelle, reggaeton star Don Omar, and Colombian pop sensation Shakira. The inauguration festivities will take place concurrently with a Business Summit between Chinese and Costa Rican business leaders.

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