3 April 1998: First stone laid to build Martín Carpena arena

Officials help lay the first stone for the Palacio de Deportes.
Officials help lay the first stone for the Palacio de Deportes. / Fernando González
  • After months of controversy and political differences the public bodies cofinancing the project came together for the symbolic act

On 3 April 1998 the first stone was laid for what would become Malaga's Palacio de Deportes José María Martín Carpena, or the Martín Carpena arena as it is known in English.

After several months of controversy and political differences, the four public bodies contributing financially to the project came together for a photo call as the symbolic first brick was put in place.

Then mayor of Malaga Celia Villalobos was joined by José Nuñez from the regional Junta de Andalucía; Luis Vázquez Alfarache, then president of Malaga's provincial authority, the Diputación; as well as Antonio Martín Martín, the secretary of state for Sport at the time.

Villalobos said on the day that the arena was "an aspiration of all Malagueños".

The project had gone out to tender in 1997 and was awarded to the company Ferrovial with a budget of 1.9 billion pesetas (approximately 11.4 million euros). It was expected to take 18 months to complete.

It was leading architect Antonio Valero Navarrete's ambition to make the arena "one of the best in Spain, in competition with Barcelona".

The building work did finish in 1999 and the arena was opened in 2000.

Following the death of the Malaga councillor José María Martín Carpena at the hands of the Basque terrorist group ETA on 15 July 2000, a decision was taken to name the centre after him. The new name was officially given in September of the same year.

The arena has been the home of Malaga's basketball team Unicaja since it opened and has seen a number of Copa del Rey basketball finals there.

It has also hosted tennis tournaments, including the Malaga Masters, and a semi-final of the David Cup.

As well as sporting events, the arena has been the venue for major cultural performances. Elton John played there in 2015, the circus group Cirque du Soleil have been regulars and in January this year the Goyas, Spain's equivalent to the Oscars, took place at the arena.