The Palace of Concerts and Sports (officially named Sporto rūmai) is a 4400-seated indoor basketball and volleyball arena located in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Construction of this venue began in 1965 and completion was in 1971. After 33 years of use, it was deemed unsafe for use due to the poor quality of the concrete used and was closed in 2004.
Built in the post-Stalin era, where Soviet architects didn’t have artistic restrictions placed on them by the State, this building was designed in Brutalist architectural style which was popular in Western Europe at the time. Only two other venues were built in this style – the Hala Olivia Arena in Gdansk, Poland and the now demolished Volgar Sports Palace in Tolyatti, Russia.
In 1988, the Palace of Concerts and Sports hosted the first congress of Sąjūdis, who were a reformation movement which played a key role in Lithuania’s effort to declare independence from the Soviet Union. In January of 1991, the Palace was the venue for the public funeral of 13 Lithuanians who were killed by Soviet soldiers at the Vilnius Television Tower during the country’s struggle for independence
In 2006, the building was added to the Vilnius list of Cultural Heritage buildings which protected the building from being demolished. In 2009, a ban was placed upon entering the building due to risk of imminent collapse. As of 2021, the building is still standing. Some light maintenance was performed on the Palace in 2016.
Between 2013 and 2015, the building changed ownership three times. It was initially sold at auction as the local authorities lacked the funds to maintain it.
In 2019, the Mayor of Vilnius, Remigijus Šimašius, announced a 3.42-million-euro refurbishment plan for the venue. The refurbishment planned to expand the buildings size from 15,600 to 18,000 square meters and to adopt the arena for conferences and exhibitions.
These plans were met by fierce opposition from many members of the Jewish Community. The venue is located on the site of Piramónt cemetery which is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Vilnius. This cemetery, which dates to the 15th century, was closed by the Russian authorities in 1831. The Soviets then went on to destroy the cemetery between 1949 – 1950 to construct a football station and swimming pool.
The refurbishment plans for the venue were approved by the Lithuanian Jewish community as well as the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe. However, over 50,000 signatures have been collected from those who disagree with the proposals. A relative of one of the people buried in the cemetery has taken legal action to put a halt on any refurbishment plans for the Palace of Concerts and Sports. Over 100 further people have taken legal action against the owners since.
As of 2021, the future of the Palace is in limbo due to the aforementioned legal issues.
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