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The Lithuanian Connection: How far does it plan to take Hearts?

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August 16 2005

Under plans being considered by the majority shareholder, Vladimir Romanov, Heart of Midlothian Football Club, may yet move from Tynecastle. Despite winning control of the club on a campaign of stopping a proposed move to Murrayfield Stadium, according to Charlie Mann, Romanov’s Scottish spokesperson, the Lithuanian may yet countenance the development of a completely new stadium. “Although Tynecastle is the preferred venue for Hearts, we may still decide that we need more room for development,” said Mann,
Romanov has approached the Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas to consider the redevelopment of Tynecastle. “I plan to do this project, but I have to speak again with my friend Vladimir in September,” said Fuksas. Romanov has already commissioned Fuksas to convert an old Soviet-era stadium, by the riverside, in the heart of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, into a new national stadium. The development plan, currently being analysed by city planning authorities is worth up to £210 million and includes leisure and conference facilities, along with hotel, residential and retail units, in an area covering 350,000 sq m. According to Mindaugas Valuckas, deputy director of Romanov’s development partners, Hanner, “the stadium will seat somewhere between 21,000 and 29,000 people.”
Fuksas said that although he had yet to “draw a single line” of the new stadium in Edinburgh he saw the Lithuanian development as indicative of his approach to a redeveloped ground for Hearts. “The idea is to have a town plan for the area around the stadium which is not only for football but for other things as well, shopping and conferences. But what is interesting is to be in the middle of the town. It’s difficult to do. But we have have to bring back into the city, many of the things that we pushed out in the 70s,” he said. Fuksas, who designed the Italian Space Agency building in Rome, was dismissive of stadia built in out-of-town developments. “They don’t have much soul. The new stadium Munich [designed by Herzog and de Meuron] is in the middle of nothing. There’s only autobahn around it” he said. Such an approach would severely limit Romanov, with development space of a comparable size to the Vilnius stadium limited within the urban fabric of west Edinburgh. His development partners for the riverside development in Vilnius, Hanner, however, were consulted before Romanov took over the controlling share in Hearts.
Fuksas admitted that Tynecastle did not have much space around into which the building could develop. He promised that he “would look at the area closely” however. His relationship with Romanov developed from their shared Lithuanian heritage. Although born and raised in Italy, Fuksas’s father came from Kaunas, in Lithuania. Romanov is a naturalised Lithuanian and currently owns the football team in Kaunas.

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