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Joerg Haider's dream stadium finally complete

Haider stadium plan finally complete

Managers at Austrian far Right leader Joerg Haider's recently completed football stadium are so desperate to find a use for the 90 million Euros building they are using it to stage a billard contest.

Before his death Haider had been determined to convert his ski loving province to football by building a 30,000 stadium - in a city of just 90,000.

Like Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who bought Chelsea football club, Haider wanted to have a good football club in Carinthia, but unlike Abramovich, he did not have the money for the planned stadium.

Instead he had pressurised the national government to have his region included in the timetable for the UEFA Euro 2008, using funds from the local government and bank Hypo Alpe Adria (HGAA). The Hypo bank was effectively a personal piggy bank for Haider as he embarked on an ever greater number of personal projects in a strategy that eventually saw the bank nationalised to prevent it from collapsing.

Haider died in a car crash in October 2008 but before his death the most ambitious of all the personal projects he engaged in was the desire to turn the ski loving people in the mountainous region of Carinthia into football fans - and build the international standard stadium for them to play in.

The Carinthian capital Klagenfurt, a city of just 90,000, had no decent club when Haider had unveiled the plan as the local club was relegated again in 2004, and no successful football stadium as the run-down Woerthersee stadium with 10,000 seats was rarely sold out.

Haider was not deterred by the lack of enthusiasm for football in his ski-loving province, and nor was he bothered by the fact that they did not even have a good local club. That was solved when he persuaded the Bundesliga club ASKOE Pasching to move to Klagenfurt to play under the new name of SK Austria Kaernten.

The Hypo and the Bayerische Landesbank in Germany that wanted to take the club over were told 10 million Euros in sponsorship was needed in exchange for his approval for a takeover deal.

The first payment was made in 2007. For their money the new stadium in Woerthersee was renamed as the "Hypo Group Arena", the bank got a 10-year advertising deal, 100 free grandstand tickets and the use of five VIP boxes. But the real prize was the approval by Haider of the takeover deal by the Germans of Hypo Group Alpe Adria, and after the sponsorship that deal went through without difficulty.

In the rush to push through the stadium in time for the Euro 2008, the local government ignored basic environmental laws and since then, in order to make it usable, Austria has had to spend another 19.5 million Euros on the project (15.5 from the state and 4 from the region). That is even though everyone agrees it will never make a profit - and will always need subsidies.

Klagenfurt mayor Christian Scheider (FPOE) said in 2012 subsidies host concerts but so far there have been no bookings.

Park spokesman Daniel Greiner said they had managed to get several sporting events booked - including an archery contest and a billiard contest.

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