On July 2, 2018, at 11 AM, Lithuania’s state property bank, Turto Bankas, led an open meeting to discuss the rental terms for the operator of the Vilnius Concert and Sports House, previously known as the Soviet Sports Palace (Sporto rūmai), which the Soviets built on Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery. The search for an operator is part of a plan by the Lithuanian government to remake the decrepit building as a modern convention center and a symbol of Vilnius. According to critics, the plan is senseless and the symbol shameful.
The hourlong meeting at Turto Bankas, Vilnius g. 16, Vilnius, was led by project leader Karolis Maželis and his colleagues. The eleven participants included representatives of UAB Infrastruktūra LT, Seven Entertainment, UAB LITEXPO, the law firm GLIMSTEDT, journalists Julius Norwilla and Andrius Kulikauskas, and concerned citizen Ruta Bloshtein, the organizer of a petition which close to 44,000 people have signed online to respect the cemetery and to build the convention center at another location. Turto Bankas publicized the meeting through its website, along with a draft of the rental terms and answers to comments and suggestions received from interested parties.
At the meeting, Turto Bankas noted its goal of selecting an operator by the end of the year. A separate process is determining the company that would renovate the building. Turto Bankas subsequently announced on July 4 that it will be purchasing an architectural plan for the building’s reconstruction and for oversight of the project. The term “reconstruction” (rekonstrukcija) as opposed to “renovation” (renovacija) goes against the spirit of earlier agreements with the Lithuanian Jewish Community which intended to limit disruption of the grounds around the building which to this day are, in fact, a cemetery. According to a TV3 report on May 7, 2018, reconstruction is scheduled for the start of 2020, and the center should open in 2021. Turto Bankas seeks to rent out the building for a ten year term. The convention center will host up to 2,500 participants in 10 transformable spaces occupying 16,000 square meters. Lithuania does not have companies with the resources to both build and operate such a center.
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