The selling of a World Cup stadiumMemories of soccer goals, penalty kicks and cheering throngs are still vivid in Koreans’ minds, but the World Cup Stadium in northwest Seoul is moving on.
It’s being reborn as a shopping mall.
In two months, the Seoul government plans to christen the gigantic stadium “World Cup Mall.” With discount shopping malls and a multiplex cinema, World Cup Mall will be as much of a consumer-entertainment mecca as it once was an athletics centerpiece.
And residents of western Seoul are expected to cheer for the stadium’s new incarnation as much as Red Devils did last year for soccer teams. At least that’s the opinion of city officials, who say the area has been devoid of family recreation, outside of World Cup Park. The megamall, officials say, will be a convenient place for families to spend free time.
The plan has been criticized for being overly commercial, however. Critics assail the project for only featuring profit-oriented enterprises which feed the city’s coffers. Because World Cup Stadium was built with citizens’ tax money, they say, its new format must prioritize public needs.
Government officials defend their decision, saying they did not have many choices to rebuild and maintain the stadium. Besides, the stadium portion will remain intact.
As the plan stands so far, the stadium’s first and second floors will be transformed from offices into a major shopping mall. The French shopping mall giant Carrefour will occupy two floors on the stadium’s southeast. A 10-screen multiplex and arcade, meanwhile, will rise at the stadium’s north end while the western part will become a convention center and wedding hall.
Other leisure facilities in the works are a swimming pool and gym in the southern section, along with a bathhouse (massages available for tired shoppers) and DVD screening rooms. Fast food places like Lotteria and Pizza Hut will sit on the second floor of the northwestern corner.
Following the city’s choice of a contractor last July, work on the gargantuan property began. The government also expects a gargantuan profit: 11.5 billion won ($9.3 million) a year from rent and 4.1 billion won from special events like soccer games. Despite the city’s 7.2 billion won investment, the government expects to stay in the black.
The place for families and teenagers will be Rendezvous Square at the north end, near the subway station. And in front of the entrance will be Festival Square, where various performances will be held. Public space for dance competitions, inline skating and schmoozing also appear on the blueprints. From May 8 to 11, the Pucini opera “Turandot” will be held at World Cup Stadium.
But the absence of World Cup mementos has aroused suspicions in some quarters that the city government is only focusing on money-making enterprises. Hundreds of foreign tourists visit the stadium each day, but the only hint that the World Cup took place there are some photographs. They were donated by citizens.
by Park Hyun-young