Photo Credit: Emma Hyyppä / Yle

Uncertainty about former Hartwall Arena: Plans for Helsinki to build the largest arena in Northern Europe

Author Stefanie Nysand - 19.9.2022

It has been nearly seven months since Russia invaded Ukraine, and for just as long, the former Hartwall Arena – which is now called Helsinki Halli – has not been in use, facing an uncertain future. Since 2013, the largest concert venue in Finland’s capital Helsinki is owned by Russian oligarchs – Gennady Timchenko and the brothers Arkady and Boris Romanovich Rotenberg – who are now on the EU sanctions list, in conjunction with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In order to avoid association with the Russian main owners, the Helsinki-based beverage company Hartwall, largest sponsor and holder of the naming rights to the arena, ended its sponsorship and had all Hartwall signs removed from the venue’s walls within the first week of the invasion. At the same time, event organisers who had bookings for the arena started to look for alternative venues.

Some events had to be cancelled altogether, and some were moved either to smaller venues in Helsinki, such as the Helsinki Ice Hall, or to other cities like Espoo and Tampere. Already early on, Tampere seemed particularly attractive with its brand new 15,000-seat Nokia Arena which opened less than a year ago, in December 2021. However, the fact that Tampere is becoming the more attractive location in Finland in this regard seems to be not quite welcomed in Helsinki.

Now, a group of well-known real estate developers and investors not only want Helsinki to have a new arena, but the largest multi-purpose arena for cultural and sports events in Northern Europe. With a capacity of 17,000, the new arena in Helsinki aims to outshine what is currently the largest arena in Northern Europe: Globen (also known as Avicii Arena) in Sweden’s capital Stockholm. The new arena is supposed to be built in the district Suvilahti where the open air festivals Tuska and Flow are held every summer, and it is supposed to be opened rather soon, in 2027.

Another arena in Helsinki, Helsinki Garden, has been in the making since several years, even though with a smaller capacity:

“Helsinki Garden will contain the most modern event arena in the world, serving culture and sports afficionados in the heart of Helsinki. The arena capacity will include roughly 10,500 seats and over a hundred gallery boxes for the events.”– Helsinki Garden

Timo Nieminen, one of the developers of the new arena in Suvilahti, believes that there are enough customers for several large arenas in Helsinki, and he hopes that the negotiations with the City of Helsinki will progress so that the project will be able to move forward soon. According to Timo Nieminen, the attitude has been positive so far. The construction costs are estimated to be between 150 and 200 million euros. It is not clear yet who will fund the project, with Timo Nieminen saying that “we are still at the beginning of the path”.