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Uncertainty grows over former Hartwall Arena

Finland's largest arena is out of use due to its Russian ownership, while its longtime naming rights partner has pulled out

By James Hanley on 22 Jun 2022

Hartwall Arena, Helsinki

Helsinki Halli


The future of the former Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland is unclear, with shows relocated and its naming rights partner terminating its long-standing sponsorship due to the venue’s Russian ownership.

The country’s largest arena, the 15,500-cap venue has been owned by Arena Events Oy (AEO) since 2013 but has been shuttered since two of the company’s co-founders, Gennady Timchenko and Boris Rotenberg, were added to the UK’s sanctions list following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Finland’s National Enforcement Authority reportedly confiscated Timchenko’s 22.5% holdings in the venue in April.

Helsinki-based Beverage giant Hartwall ended its 25-year association with the building soon after the war began, leading the arena to be renamed Helsinki Halli.

“The arena will not bear Hartwall’s name, and the Hartwall logo has been removed from the arena’s walls”

“The war started by Russia is an absurd and reprehensible act,” said Hartwall CEO Kalle Järvinen at the time. “We will no longer engage in marketing collaboration with Helsinki Halli due to the war in Russia. In the future, the arena will not bear Hartwall’s name and the Hartwall logo has been removed from the arena’s walls.”

High-profile 2022 concerts to have been moved include Kiss and The Cure, which were both switched to the 8,200-cap Helsinki Ice Hall, while Queen + Adam Lambert’s 24-25 July gigs will now take place at the 15,000-cap Nokia Arena in Tampere. Eric Clapton’s performance was also relocated to the latter venue.

“Due to ongoing sanctions pertaining to the situation in Ukraine, all Live Nation events originally scheduled to take place at the Hartwall Arena (Helsinki Halli) are being moved to alternate venues,” Live Nation told ticket-holders.

Shows by acts including Elton John, Dua Lipa and Bjork, meanwhile, were unable to be rescheduled and have now been cancelled.

“It is not possible to do business with Russians on the sanctions list”

A number of Finnish promoters have confirmed to IQ that the venue remains out of use for events as a result of the sanctions. Helsinki Mayor Juhana Vartiainen, meanwhile, has expressed his hope for a change in ownership to end the deadlock.

“It is not possible to do business with Russians on the sanctions list,” he said, reports YLE. “At this stage, we can only make sure that the hall pays its taxes and fulfils its obligations… My understanding is that a forced sale could come up in the event that Helsinki Halli does not pay its debts.”

YLE notes that Rotenberg and Timchenko own a combined 44% of the arena’s holding company, Helsinki Halli Oy, but their combined voting power in the firm accounts for 93.9%.

According to Iltalehti, the rent for the arena is due quarterly and was paid on time on its previous due date in April. The publication notes that due to the sanctions, the owners cannot sell the hall without the consent of the Finnish authorities.

The venue’s management has not responded to IQ‘s requests for comment.

 


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