Mong Kok Stadium in HK$146m facelift
Covered all-seat arena long overdue, says FA boss
Mong Kok Stadium will undergo a massive facelift to make it an all-seater 10,000-capacity arena by 2011.
The HK$146 million project, which will see all seats under cover, will be done in phases so domestic competitions can continue throughout the period.
The most frequently used venue for domestic tournaments will accommodate 1,500 more spectators than the current 8,500 maximum.
Hong Kong FA chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak said the development, which is due to start in the off-season next year, will be a big boost to the sport.
'Mong Kok Stadium has been very popular among fans, even if the facilities are outdated,' said Leung, who promised to bring the game to new heights when he was elected to his post in the summer. 'The football association has been asking for improved facilities and I am delighted the authorities have listened to our request finally.
'I am sure fans will welcome the upgraded facilities and attendances will increase. Football has undergone a revival since last season with more fans coming through the turnstiles and more commercial sponsors for First Division clubs. An improved environment is needed to treat the fans better,' added Leung, who said at the start of the season he hoped to see attendances double.
Formerly an Army sports ground, Mong Kok Stadium was handed over to the now-defunct Urban Council for management in 1961 and is now managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Over the years, it has been criticised for its poor facilities, but it is still frequently used because of its convenient location.
Most of the 8,500 capacity is held in the two major stands on the east and west sides. However, there is no individual seating, just long concrete terraces. There are also two temporary stands on the north and south sides. Almost all the stands are uncovered - with the exception of about 50 seats in a VIP area in the east stand - so fans are exposed to sun, rain and wind.
Eastern team manager Peter Leung Shou-chi, who has been involved in football for over two decades, said they had suffered the sub-standard facilities for many years.
'Mong Kok Stadium is the most frequently used venue, but the facilities are terrible,' he said. 'We need a modern stadium. The issue has been discussed for a long time and it's good to hear they are taking action.
'Even if we are talking about an increased hiring fee for the clubs in future, it is still worth paying because the turnover will be increased with an improved venue, and the clubs will be in a better position to attract more commercial sponsorship.'
Leung said the increased capacity of 10,000 should be good enough for domestic competitions, as well as some small regional tournaments.
'Fans pay to watch games and it is unfair for them to be treated like this,' he said. 'Also, we can host more regional tournaments at the new stadium, especially at junior level which would be a heavy financial burden if played at Hong Kong Stadium. In the long run, it should benefit not only the clubs but football as a whole in Hong Kong.'
Only one full house was posted last season when Kitchee met South China in a potential league championship-deciding clash in April. However, it was common to see full houses in the early 1990s when top teams such as Eastern, South China, Happy Valley and Instant Dict played each other.
Meanwhile, South China are likely to move to the top of the Coolpoint Ventilation First Division table when they take on minnows Workable at Hong Kong Stadium today.
Despite a poor start - a defeat to Kitchee - the Caroliners are back in contention after two straight wins, especially following the arrival of their two new Brazilian signings (striker Maxwell Santos Silva and midfield player Manoel Santos Filho), and should be too strong for their newly promoted opposition. South China are offering fans a buy-one-get-one-free ticket deal.
The capacity at Mong Kok Stadium will increase from 8,500 to 10,000