Yet another expensive stadium: the Szilvásvárad Equestrian Centre cost a fortune to the taxpayers

The Hungarian government spent EUR 20 million (nearly HUF 7 billion) on the construction of the Szilvásvárad Lipizzan Equestrian Centre, the annual maintenance costs EUR 150 thousand (nearly HUF 50 million). However, the not so popular attraction makes only EUR 53 thousand (HUF 18 million) annual revenue, and is massively loss-making.

Szilvásvárad lies more than 160 kilometers from Budapest on the western side of the Bükk Hills. Tourists and environmentalists criticized the construction, because the concrete monster was built at the entrance of The Szalajka Valley, in the centre of Szilvasvárad in the Bükk National Park.

The complex was built at four times original price

The Szilvásvárad Lipizzan Equestrian Centre is the biggest investment in Hungary’s equestrian sports history, within Kincsem Equestrian Programme. The new centre was built at a cost of EUR 20 million (HUF 6.8 billion). The contractor was Mészáros and Mészáros Kft., owned by Lőrinc Mészáros, together with Euro Campus Kft.

The Mészáros empire won public tenders worth €826 million last year, 93 percent of which came from European Union funds

Lőrinc Mészáros became the richest person in Hungary in 2018. The former gas pipe fitter and Viktor Orban’s childhood friend from his home village is increasing his wealth miraculously. However, his riches might have more to do with EU funds and taxpayer money than magic. His companies won the most taxpayer-funded public tenders last year.

During the first phase, the indoor riding school was expanded and upgraded to accommodate 650 spectators. The second phase focused on the parade ground, and then in the final phase they developed the large open race track, including a new 6500 seat stadium.

The government initially provided EUR 5 million (HUF 1.68 billion) for the investment, while public procurement was estimated EUR 14 million (HUF 4.6 billion), but the contract was sold for much more, EUR 18 million (EUR 6.2 billion). In 2016, the final price of the equestrian center rose to EUR 20 million (HUF 6.8 billion).

The revenue covers electricity only

The equestrian complex opened in the summer of 2018, but people did not rush for the free seats, the stadium wasn’t full at the free entrance opening ceremony.

Since there is no public data on how much money the public equestrian center operates and how many people visit it, we sent a request for data of public interest to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The answer revealed that the operation of the stadium and the indoor riding facility consumes so much money that is not covered by the revenues of the complex or by the other income of the Szilvásvárad stud farm, therefore the state helps out.

In 2019, the equestrian centre generated EUR 53 thousand (nearly HUF 18 million) in revenue, while expenditures amounted to EUR 145 thousand (almost HUF 49 million).

Looking at the percentages, 37% of the expense was covered by the complex’s revenue, while the remaining 63% was paid from state subsidies.

The stadium is difficult to reach

We did not know how many visitors had visited the equestrian center so far, as the events were free, so no tracking of visitors was made. The stadium has been adapted to the number of major world competitions: only 1,600 people live in Szilvásvárad, while the stadium can host 6,500.

The video and photos of the tournaments show that the stadium is in a state of emptiness. József Bozsik Jr., who has been the federal captain of the single and pony riders, criticized the indoor riding facility – he was dismissed after his statement.

According to József Bozsik Jr., the stadium with 6,500 seats is unused, with a maximum of 500 people attending the events. He also said that the geographical location of the town does not make it possible for the stadium to host a major European or World Championship. The stadium is not accessible directly from the motorway. Central Europe’s most up-to-date equestrian facility will not be used during the 2021 Budapest Equestrian Championship nor during the 2022 World Cup either.

Written by Szilvia Zsilák. You can read the more detailed Hungarian version of this article here.