(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The largest sports, cultural, and recreational center of its kind in the Middle East was unveiled Monday morning in the capital at a press conference overseen by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Payis Arena, located next to Teddy Stadium in the capital’s Malha neighborhood, features a state-of-theart arena, wheelchair accessibility, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, ice-skating rink, a bowling alley, fitness room, numerous activities rooms and a medical sports center, among other amenities.
“We have turned a dream into reality,” said Barkat upon greeting the media in one of the 50,000 sq.m. arena’s press rooms. “Today, Jerusalem is renewing itself with the most advanced arena in the world.”
The unveiling was sponsored by the Jerusalem Municipality and Mifal Hapayis (the lottery fund), in collaboration with the Ariel Municipal Company and the Moriah Jerusalem Development Company.
“This is a celebration for the residents of Jerusalem and for the country as a whole, which will now enjoy an arena that will host the largest international sports and cultural events in the world in the capital of Israel,” the mayor said.
According to Barkat, construction costs totaled NIS 400 million, of which Mifal Hapayis financed NIS 281m. The arena has eight levels, is 37 meters high and goes 15 meters below ground. It has a maximum capacity of 15,000 visitors, including 11,600 seats in 18 galleries and 16 VIP boxes. The arena’s centerpiece is a 200 sq.m. video screen and scoreboard suspended eight meters above the floor.
“This is a living room for a community because everyone in the city can use it,” said Arthur Spector, the arena’s architect. “We wanted to make the experience of coming here as pleasant and happy as possible.”
Barkat said the arena meets the International Basketball Federation standards for international games, including Euroleague and EuroBasket games.
Mifal Hapayis chairman, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, lauded the achievement as an “exemplar of education, culture and sports.”
“These are the objectives of Mifal Hapayis,” he said. “I am sure that the Payis Arena will be put to good use and become a center for attracting municipal, national and international cultural and sports events.”
Zion Turgeman, CEO of Ariel Municipal Company, said the new stadium far exceeds the 3,500 seat capacity of the formerly largest cultural venue in Jerusalem.
“With the establishment of the Payis Arena, it is now possible to hold cultural events in the city for up to 15,000 participants, including floor seating, and with no time restrictions,” he said.
“It will be possible to host cultural shows in Jerusalem that until now were logistically impossible.”
Doron Noiwirt, the CEO of Moriah Jerusalem Development Company, deemed the arena “the largest, most challenging and complex project in the history of Jerusalem, in general and the history of Moriah in particular.”
“We did not compromise on the quality of work, which meets the highest and most meticulous standards in terms of professionalism, quality, and safety down to the tiniest detail, and, no less important, within budget and on time,” he said.
The arena’s inauguration will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in a ceremony entitled “Jerusalem Salutes the Soldiers of the IDF and Lone Soldiers,” in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin and Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat.
It will open to the public upon final completion in the coming months, Spector said.