Developer Has Big Plans For Stadium

Prime Minister Hun Sen Monday signed the papers with Yuan Ta Group of Taiwan on a deal that will bring the government $3.6 million to fix up the decaying Olympic Stadium.

In return, the company gets the right to develop the area around the stadium—one of the few remaining open spaces in Phnom Penh—into a business-entertainment-hotel complex that will cost at least $40 million.

The development will be so extensive that the stadium will be hard to spot from the roads that now loop around it. According to an architectural model display, it will eventually involve three hotels, two parking garages, a six-building “entertainment center,’’ an office building and multi-story shopping mall.

Further details were hard to come by.

At the afternoon signing ceremony, held in the Hotel Inter-Continental ballroom, scores of dark-suited businessmen and officials buzzed appreciatively as developers and officials praised the deal.

But not until the cell-phone toting crowd was quaffing champagne after the signing did a

company official answer questions, and that was on the fly.

Roland Tsai, who said he is an assistant to Yuan Ta’s president,  said the project will take five years to complete and involve at least 400 hotel rooms and parking for more than 3,000 cars.

The project had been temporarily derailed by the factional fighting of 1997, he said. “But Cambodia is the last virgin land in Southeast Asia, and now the political situation is much more stable,’’ he said.

Roland Tsai said renovations to the stadium will be completed first, and that the rest of the project will be done in stages. He said the project would be similar to the architectural model, but that a number of changes might be made by Cambodian officials as the work progresses.

He said he was sorry, but company stockholders were eager for tour of the city, and he had no time for further questions.

According to the architectural model, the renovated facility will have three sets of outdoor courts—eight for volleyball, eight for  basketball, and eight for tennis. It looks as if two buildings are set aside for athletic purposes: one,  the existing arena, and a second that features a pool.

What is now open space around the stadium, temporarily occupied by vendors from the soon-to-reopen Old O’Russei Market, will be almost completely transformed.

Directly behind the tower shaped like an Olympic torch, for example, the models shows a five-story parking garage flanked by two separate business hotels.

The open-air tennis and volleyball courts will be surrounded on two sides by low-rise shops and a seven-story supermarket/office building. At the opposite end of the stadium, the model shows a 10-story hotel, five-story parking garage and eight-story shopping mall.

The final side of the stadium is lined with more low-rise shops and an extensive seven-story complex of six buildings labeled “entertainment center.’’

Last fall, some government officials and academics criticized the project, saying private development risked spoiling one of the city’s most prominent buildings.

Chea Sarin, who lectures on urban environmental management at the Royal University of Fine Arts, cautioned then that Phnom Penh had very little green space left, and more development in the city center would make it “look like Bangkok.’’

Tol Lah, minister of Education, Youth and Sport, said at the signing ceremony that his ministry had tried very hard to get other countries to donate money to save the stadium, “which had been decaying day by day….but it was not a success.’’

Last month, Hun Sen announced that to improve the poor state of athletics he would head the Cambodian National Sports Authority, which has been dormant since the 1960s.


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