Wembley unveils ambitious plans for Hongkong Stadium
By ERIC ANDERSON
THE new Hongkong Stadium could host flamboyant professional wrestlers, gridiron games and concerts by top pop stars, the head of the company chosen to manage the facility said yesterday.
Sir Brian Wolfson, chairman of Wembley PLC, said soccer, union and league rugby, as well as motorcross - in which motorcycle racers speed over bumpy terrain - could also be featured at the new venue, which will be completed next year.
Urban councillors voted yesterday to appoint Wembley, which runs the famous Wembley complex in Britain, to manage the Hongkong Stadium.
''The facility itself is first, international class, as a result of which it will make a very strong claim to any event that's going around,'' Sir Brian, who had flown to Hongkong for the announcement and the signing of a letter of intent, said.
He estimated there could be about 20 international sporting and entertainment events annually at the 40,000-seat facility.
The stadium will also be used for a series of local or regional sporting events, performances and festivals.
Sir Brian said that while soccer remained the dominant sport in Hongkong, one American football game per year ''should not be beyond the realm of possibility''.
He said entertainment wrestling - which has been made popular by the World Wrestling Federation, whose competitors wear costumes and engage in colourful, rhetorical battles outside the ring - ''is another sport you could put in''. Boxing was also an option.
He said the new stadium, as well as Hongkong's ''sophisticated'' population, would put the territory on the touring map for pop acts embarking on stadium tours each year.
The venue may compete with the Hongkong Coliseum for some events, but Mr Chan Kin-bun, senior manager stadia/marketing with the Urban Council, said he doubted the Coliseum would be seriously affected.
The 12,000-seat Coliseum is managed by the Urban Council.
Mr Chan predicted the open-air Hongkong Stadium could be more popular with acts during the dry season, while the indoor Coliseum may be preferred in rainy periods.
Wembley beat off two other bidders - one from Australia and one from the United States.
''Their offer was far, far superior to the other two,'' Dr Ronald Leung Ding-bong, chairman of the Urban Council, said.
Dr Leung also praised the ''excellent track record'' of Wembley, which manages 14 venues worldwide.
While most details of the deal were kept secret, it was revealed that Wembley would get a share of profits generated by the stadium as well as a ''base fee''.
If the stadium operates at a loss, however, Wembley will waive its fee.
Wembley's management contract, which will be formally signed in March, extends for a decade.