After taking on street vendors, property encroachers and speedboat captains, the military is ready to tackle Pattaya’s biggest white elephant: the 20,000 seat football stadium that still isn’t finished after eight years in the works.
Col. Popanan Leuangphanuwat, deputy commander of the 14th Military Circle, led an inspection of the Eastern National Stadium project Jan. 12, following up orders from the junta to investigate reasons for delays in major public works projects.
Ironically, it was the army that dropped the ball in completing the 774-million-baht complex.
The Royal Thai Army’s 1st Development Division was contracted in 2014 to complete the work begun in 2008 after Pattaya City Hall repeatedly failed to find private-sector contractors able to do the job.
The military pulled out after the 2014 coup and has not returned to complete the work, leaving the project in a state of limbo.
The Eastern National Stadium development on Soi Chaiyapruek 2 was slated to include a 20,000-seat football stadium, indoor arena, competition-sized swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts and 10 practice fields spread over 254 rai.
The plan was for it to serve as a hub for sports and recreational activities on the Eastern Seaboard. To date, however, only Phase 1 – the indoor arena and a section of concrete terracing for 5,000 seats at the football field – were completed, in 2010.
Still outstanding are the other 15,000 seats, the swimming pool, grandstands and roof – about 536 million baht in investment.
Begun in 2009, then-mayor Itthiphol Kunplome’s pet project saw grass planted and construction of about 90 million baht in work completed before a series of design and construction delays halted proceedings.
Itthiphol then diverted 140 million baht in stadium-construction funds to beautify the landscape on Pattaya Beach, work that was wiped out less than a year later when the mayor pushed through a plan to widen Beach Road.
With less money to build, city hall demanded cost cuts and price concessions from the contractor. Claiming the delays actually made the job unprofitable, the contractor quit, leaving the city with no money and no company to build Itthiphol’s dream stadium.
City officials said they searched for a construction company to do the job at a lower price but, apparently, couldn’t find anyone but military conscripts to do the work on their budget.
The army was supposed to provide labor, equipment, and construction materials with Pattaya pledging to pay the military 536.5 million baht for construction. The army said it would begin construction within a month and finish the project within three years and four months.
The army staged its coup two months later and the contract fell by the wayside.
Pattaya City Council Chairman Anan Angkanawisai stated the obvious for the press that a lot of money has been invested in the project with no result.
The council will look again at the project to see if it can be jump-started again.