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[24.01.2008] Soon in Gulbene the renovated arena and cheese dairy will be opened
In Gulbene city two historical places are about to be re-opened in the territory of Vecgulbene manor: the arena and the cheese dairy. The openning is planned in February.

Source: nozare.lv, Lauku avīze (Ilze Galkina)

The reconstruction of both buildings is a part of a bigger project that is beeing implemented by two entrepreneurs from Valmiera - Elmārs Pitura and Jurģis Ābele. They bought the Vecgulbene manor, including Baron Wolf's White castle in 2005 in order to reconstruct the place where the city of Gulbene once begun. So far already 3 million lats have been invested in the project, and the money is coming from 9 European Regional development funds and a loan by Latvijas Hipotēku un Zemes banka. The money is used to landscape the park, build the communication infrastructure, roads, lighting and to reconstruct the two buildings mentioned before.

Elmārs Pitura: "We are also ready to reconstruct the White castle, and we hope to get support from European funds once again. We estimate the the total amount of money needed to completely reconstruct the Vecgulbene manor complex can reach 8 million lats. Honestly, when we bought this place 3 years ago, we thought that we will finish the reconstruction quickly. However, the job was more than we could ever imagine. But we are not worried, and we will continue the reconstruction, until it will be finished. Our friends call us crazy, but we think that one should be a bit crazy by taking such a responsibility to show the history to others."

In the Arena, which used to be the biggest equestrian sport arena in the Baltics, and recently - Gulbene city sports school, the hotel "Vecgulbenes muiža" will be located with large conference hall for 400 people, restaurant for 50 persons and a hotel for 60 guests as well as a SPA complex. The Cheese dairy will be renovated as a guest house for families and friends.

There will also be possibilities not only to organize conferences and seminars, but also huge outdoor events in the summer. The owners have bought two tents (600 sq. m), stage floor, loudspeakers and lighting equipment. Elmārs Pitura thinks that it will generate extra income: "The first round of the reconstructed complex could only repay us the costs of electricity, maintenance, salaries etc. Our aim never was to get a huge profit from this complex, rather than renovate it and allow it to self-finance".

The entrepreneurs have also studied the market of guest houses, and the forecasts are optimistic. There are already two wedding cermonies booked and "Vecgulbene manor" as a tourism destination is already advertised abroad. Elmārs Pitura is sure that it is not done without a reason, although there is still a lot of work ahead: "If we would start to advertise the complex only when it will be finished, then it would take some time to attract tourists. At the moment, when the complex is still beeing built, we hope that the tourists will come back to see it when it will be finished."

The total area of the complex is more than 14ha and there are 12 buildings on it. At the moment partially the cattle-shed has been reconstructed, the White caslte is conserved, the Gardener's house, towers and Hunter's house are still on the paper. It is also interesting that the 110m long wooden air bridge, which once connected the White castle and the Rudolf's park and was the longest in the Baltics, will be rebuilt. There is also a plan the a Tourism Information Centre could be built next to the White caslte. The idea of reconstructing the greenhouse, where at the moment is Gulbene history and art museum, is also alive as it was before, but the museum could be moved to the Red castle.

Alongside with the reconstruction works, the collection of historical materials is also taking place, in order to write a book about Vecgulbene manor and the family of Baron Wolf, which was one of the richest in Latvia.

"The idea about reconstructing the Vecgulbene historical centre is a coincidence", says Elmārs Pitura. "But I am sure that Gulbene once will be the centre of North-East Vidzeme, because of the very good geographical location. The infrastructure is well-developed here, and there is a big support from the local municipality. Therefore the reconstruction of the Vecgulbene manor complex also has long-term goals: to effectively use historical objects as valuable resource to attract tourists to Gulbene"

Nikolajs Stepanovs, the head of Gulbene City Council is also satisfied with the progress: "When there was a Soviet army base, this was a restricted area to us. After that we did not have such a budget to reconstruct the buildings, which every year became less and less attractive. A hope appeared when we allowed the "Malta order" to manage the buildings, but as it did not invest any money, we had to break the contract. At the moment a new, unique object is beeing built for the future of Gulbene."

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