It’s been more than nine years since the Estadio Nacional (National Stadium), built by China and donated to Costa Rica, was inaugurated. But China’s interference (money) is still needed.

A night view of the Estadio Nacional in La Sabana. Photo archives

The more than US$110 million dollar stadium is located in the northwest corner of the Parque Metropolitana La Sabana. It replaced the old stadium in a deal negotiated by then-president Oscar Arias (during his second term 2006-2010), the Chinese building at their cost the stadium in return for Costa Rica dropping diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Since then, little to no investment by the Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación (Icoder) – the Costa Rica government agency that manages the park and the stadium – has been made in maintenance and improvements on the part of Costa Rica.

Declared of public interest by the administration of Carlos Alvarado, the new Chinese project will focus on maintenance and improvement of different areas, which will cost the Chinese another US$10 million dollars.

Among the intervention are items such as the fire system, a necessary work that will include a pump room and a sprinkler system; updates to the electrical system and lighting; and handrails in the stairways, among others.

Within approximately two weeks the landing of materials coming from China will take place and the “modernization plan” will begin. The work is expected to take about 10 months to complete.

The retrofit is in the hands of engineer Lu Xiao Xu, director of administration of the Chinese company General South Architecture Design In Science. She was appointed in her country to undertake this project, and who has since last October, with 13 other Chinese nationals, been in Costa Rica to oversee the project.

Initially, more people from her country were to have come to Costa Rica to work, but the coronavirus epidemic complicated plans.

The engineer says that it was defined, in advance, that a lot of Costa Rican labor would be hired, unlike the last time, when the majority of workers were Chinese.

“The Tico workforce can bring many benefits. First, offer employment; second, we will train them. So when this project is finished there is a maintenance period in which, perhaps, they can continue working,” Xiao Xu said.

The Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica

The stadium was completed in 2011 and officially opened its doors to the public on March 26 that year, with a capacity of 35,175 seats. Although the cost was programmed at the beginning to around US$88 million, this was later adjusted to US$100 million, with the final tab almost US$115 million.

The construction of the stadium formed part of the agreements signed between the presidents of Costa Rica and China, Óscar Arias and Hu Jintao, respectively, during Arias’ first visit to the Asian country in October 2007. The construction began on March 12, 2009.

The Chinese company Anhui Foreign Economic Construction was charged with the construction of the stadium and brought 800 Chinese laborers to complete the work.