$1.5b facelift proposed for Sports Institute

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am

The government is considering a $1.5 billion redevelopment of the Sports Institute to boost high-performance sports in Hong Kong.

'If we want to take elite sports to another level and keep the momentum going, this is what we should do in terms of providing top-class facilities and support services to the athletes,' said Eric Li Ka-cheung, co-chairman of a joint taskforce for the redevelopment of the Hong Kong Sports Institute. 'There are still a lot of details to be ironed out for such a big project, but I am sure we are on the right track.'

The core of the redevelopment plan is a $200 million covered cycling velodrome, a 50-metre swimming pool, a nine-storey multipurpose building incorporating a 12-lane tenpin bowling centre and housing for athletes, and a sports science and medicine centre. A number of existing facilities would be upgraded.

Mr Li said this was the third proposal for redeveloping the institute, but unlike the previous two - which were believed to cost over $2 billion - this one was more pragmatic and feasible. 'In money terms, this is the cheapest, but all the proposals are workable and every public dollar spent will be accounted for,' he said.

The Home Affairs Bureau is studying the project, but an institute source said the bureau had concerns over the running costs. 'The construction fee of $1.5 billion is a one-off thing and it seems the government is confident it is able to identify new resources under the current healthy financial situation,' the source said. 'But it is worried about the running costs of such a big centre.'

The institute runs on an annual budget of about $148 million, which covers training programmes and running costs. It is estimated an extra $30 million would be needed for running costs alone under the new proposal.

Another concern is the cycling velodrome, proposed for the site where stables will be built for the 2008 Olympic equestrian events. The site has been the centre of controversy over whether the institute can retain it after the Games or must surrender it to the Jockey Club, which is footing the $800 million construction bill.