YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia’s largest sports and concert arena located in Yerevan will be sold to a private company for $30 million, just one year after being controversially re-nationalized by the government, according to reports.
The Armenian government said on Thursday that it will sign a takeover agreement with NTAA Investment Group within a month’s time. NTAA Investment Group was just registered in Armenia last month. According to Armenian Press, well-known individuals are not among its official owners.
The deal was approved by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan’s cabinet after being presented by Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, whose ministry has managed the Karen Demirchian Sport and Cultural Complex since August 2014.
Ohanian said that the new owner has pledged to turn the facility into a big entertainment center that will not only host concert halls, but also a new hotel, water park, shopes, and a casino. Ohanian said it will invest at least $100 million and create 250 new jobs for the construction of the additions to the arena over the next four years.
The Yerevan arena, more commonly known as “Hamalir,” was built in 1983, and became one of the most modern Soviet facilities of its kind. It was named after Karen Demirchian, a late Soviet Armenian leader who was instrumental in its expensive construction.
The complex, consisting of two large halls, was sold in 2005 to the Moscow-based construction firm BAMO, which is owned by a Russian-Armenian businessman Murad Muradian. The company paid $5.5 million and pledged to spend over $40 million on its renovation.
In 2010, President Serzh Sarkisian appointed Muradian as Armenia’s ambassador to Iraq. Muradian was fired in June 2014 amid judicial proceedings launched against his company due to its failure to repay a $25 million government loan.
The government re-nationalized Hamalir in August 2014 after failing to auction it off. BAMO denounced the move as illegal and challenged it in Armenian courts. Armenian courts rejected the lawsuits in the following months, leading BAMO to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.