50,000-seat Amphitheater Planned for Israel's Garbage Mountain

Structure in Ariel Sharon park - formerly Hiriya - to succeed Yarkon Park as Israel's major concert venue.

A 50,000-seat amphitheater is planned for Hiriya, formerly Israel's largest garbage dump and now the site of the Ariel Sharon Park, Haaretz recently learned.

The final plans for the 2,000-acre park are being completed this week, while major earthworks have been continuing for the past year. The park is slated to be the largest metropolitan park built anywhere in the world in the past century, and its planning has attracted significant international attention. Besides serving as a green lung for Gush Dan, the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Ariel Sharon Park will serve as a floodplain. Its planners hope it will put an end to the winter flooding that typically affects certain neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv and in Holon.

For the past few decades most large, open-air performances in the Tel Aviv area have been held in the city's Yarkon Park, whose concert area holds from 40,000 to 60,000 spectators, or at the Ramat Gan Stadium, which seats 41,000. Neither site was designed for performances, however, and both suffer from inadequate infrastructure as well as security problems. In addition, their location - in the middle of Greater Tel Aviv - means major traffic jams before and after every popular event.

The amphitheater planned for Ariel Sharon Park will be purpose-built, with up-to-date infrastructure.

It is to be built in the northern part of the park, near the Lod Road that connects Tel Aviv's Hatikvah neighborhood to Highway 4. It is planned by the German landscape architects Latz + Partner, along with Israeli landscape architect firms Broida-Maoz and Moria Sekely.

The park is named after former prime minister Ariel Sharon. Ayalon Park project director Danny Sternberg said it was members of Sharon's family who wanted the amphitheater. "They were looking for something they could give to the Israeli public. It's an opportunity to plan, from scratch, a large, open-air theater with all the necessary infrastructure. It will also bring ticket prices down significantly, because [promoters] won't need to set up the stage and barriers and lay all the cables each time," Sternberg said.

The planned theater is to have two seating areas, one with about 5,000 seats - similar to the Caesarea amphitheater - while the second will consist of grassy terraces with room for 40,000 to 50,000 people. This part of the venue will be freely accessible throughout the year.

A 20-acre, manmade lake filled with water recycled on-site it to be built next to the amphitheater. A railway station, approved for construction, is to be built nearby to facilitate access to the park. In addition, parking lots for thousands of vehicles are planned.

The plan for the site also includes the creation of a recycling facility that will serve the entire region at the foot of Hiriya, with an educational center designed to teach visitors about recycling and the environment.

The detailed final plans will be submitted to authorities over the coming weeks. Approval is expected to take up to three years. The amphitheater is expected to be completed by 2014.

"This park will be opened in stages, and might only be completed in 20 or 30 years," Sternberg said. "But we must remember that until now Hiriya was a backyard that everyone suffered from, and now everyone will be able to enjoy it. This used to be a garbage dump - now it will be a park that will serve as the gateway to Israel for those coming from abroad."