The Hong Kong government is facing opposition to its plan to downsize the city’s biggest stadium, with concern that such a proposal should not be committed to whilst the new Kai Tak Sports Park is still in the planning stage.
On Friday, the government proposed an 80% reduction in capacity for Hong Kong Stadium after plans for Kai Tak Sports Park recently took a step forward. The government is seeking to redevelop the existing 40,000-capacity stadium into an 8,000 to 9,000-seat public sports ground that would also offer multi-purpose conference rooms, a media centre, and a car park.
The government last month awarded the contract for the design, construction and operation of the long-awaited HK$29.993bn (£3.01bn/€3.34bn/$3.83bn) Kai Tak Sports Park project to a subsidiary of local property developer New World Development. First mooted in 2005, Kai Tak Sports Park will centre on a new 50,000-seat stadium that is set to replace Hong Kong Stadium.
However, a Wan Chai District Council meeting has failed to back the government’s plan for Hong Kong Stadium, with multiple issues being raised. The South China Morning Post newspaper said some council members criticised the lack of information concerning the plan, stating it would be “irresponsible” for them to approve the project, which is still in the conceptual planning stage. There are also concerns that the plan would also lead to the demolition of the Wan Chai Sports Ground.
Localist councillor Clarisse Yeung Suet-ying asked if the government had a “hidden agenda”. She said: “The Hong Kong Stadium should not be redeveloped until the Kai Tak Sports Park is completed. Otherwise, Hong Kong might have no venue to hold large-scale sports events.
“The only reason I can think of is that the government wants to demolish Wan Chai Sports Ground sooner after the redevelopment of the Hong Kong Stadium to make way for the development of exhibition facilities in Wan Chai. In this sense, the redevelopment plan is more of a commercial project than a sports one.”
However, Yuen Hing-keung, a home affairs official in charge of sports planning, denied this is the case. Yuen said: “There is no hidden agenda. The plan of converting the stadium can allow the provision of more community sports facilities to benefit the general public as well as to promote sports.”
Rosa Au Pui-yin, a senior executive officer at the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, added: “The consultation has just started. We shall continue to discuss with other stakeholders. If we get the green light, we shall continue to do feasible studies. By then, there will be more details of the plan and cost estimates.”