YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)—Experts in Armenia are concerned that the recent sale of the Demirchian Sports Complex in Yerevan, which is located one kilometer away from the Armenian Genocide Memorial on Tsitsernakaberd hill, will allow for the construction of a casino near the memorial site.
A number of academics and experts in various fields have expressed their concern over planned renovations of the Karen Demirchian Sports and Concerts Complex, that will reportedly bring a new hotel, water park, shops, and a casino to the vicinity of the Tsitsernakaberd memorial. Reports emerged last week that Armenia’s largest arena would be sold to a private company for $30 million.
Grigor Azizyan, director of the Armproject Institute, has expressed concern that casinos, once banned from Yerevan by the government, will return to the city. “Our government is not able to preserve the Sports and Concerts Complex. It must be privatized. That is why we welcomed the privatization of the complex by a serious company. But now, a hasty decision has been submitted to us where we all see [an] incomprehensible phenomenon: A company without background whose future is unknown. Here, a question arises: Who do we give that construction?” Azizyan, who is a recipient of the USSR State Prize in 1987, said.
President of the Union of Architects of Armenia, Mkrtich Minasyan, stressed that the area of the complex must remain untouched. “We examined the area of the Sports and Concerts Complex with my colleagues, including the forest zone, which is a protective zone. There is no area there convenient for building hotels or other large buildings. The planned huge constructions, which differ from the complex by nature, are not realistic. The area of the Sports and Concerts Complex, which has to preserve its functions, and the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial are untouchable. They remain one of our national values,” Minasyan said.
According to sculptor Ferdinand Arakelyan, if the Sports and Concerts Complex was built in another place, transforming it into an entertainment venue might be acceptable, but it is inadmissible to do so in the area of the memorial dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
“What does a restaurant, casino, or pool mean? They are all for pleasure. Pleasure on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd is equal to immorality,” Arakelyan said.
Ethnographer Hranush Kharatyan and Yerevan City Council member Anahit Bakhshyan also expressed similar concerns.
Kharatyan said that when the construction of a small church was planned near the memorial years ago, public outcry halted the plans.
Rimma Demirchyan, the widow of Armenian politician Karen Demirchian after whom the Sports and Concerts Complex was named, considers the construction of a casino in the Demirchian Complex unacceptable. She told Haykakan Zhamanak Daily that she is strongly opposed to the plans.
“If a casino is built there, then it is no use talking about holding any social, family, international, or cultural events in that complex,” she said.
“The casino will suppress everything else. And in general, this is just indecent,” Demirchian said, adding that she does not believe that authorities are prepared to make such abrupt changes regarding the Demirchyan Sports and Concert Complex. When asked if she will demand renaming the Demirchian Complex if a casino is indeed opened, Demirchian said, “We will think about it. First of all, it is necessary to find out whether they are going to build a casino there.”
On August 13 the government of Armenia approved a bill for NTAA Investment Group to takeover the complex, after it was controversially re-nationalized last year.