Legco approves facelift for Mong Kok Stadium
A HK$275 million renovation plan for Mong Kok Stadium was approved by the Legislative Council's public works subcommittee yesterday, despite a wrangle over requests for additional covered seating.
The project, scheduled for completion in time for the start of the 2011-12 domestic season, is likely to get final approval from Legco's finance committee.
'It is good news and we want the renovations to start as soon as possible so that we can have a modern facility to strengthen the sport's development,' said Football Association general secretary Lam Shing-kui.
'The existing facilities at Mong Kok Stadium are outdated and it's a shame a major metropolitan centre like Hong Kong has to use such old facilities.' The stadium has had no major facelift since it was opened 48 years ago.
According to the plan, construction will start in July and will take two years to complete. New spectator stands with individual seating will be built on the four sides of the pitch with lightweight roofing for the stands on the north and south sides, accommodating a maximum of 6,600 spectators, down from the current 7,700 capacity. Other facilities, such as changing rooms, toilets, offices and storerooms, will be upgraded and expanded.
Yesterday, legislators complained that spectators exposed to the elements in the new, roofless, east and west stands would suffer discomfort. They also urged the government to retain the original capacity.
The government said additional covering on the east and west stands would hinder the absorption of sunlight by the grass on the pitch, but agreed to reconsider after repeated requests from the lawmakers. It will also reconsider the capacity.
Officials from South China, the club with the biggest fan following, also want to see the stands covered on all four sides.
'There is no reason to leave the west and east stands exposed,' said South China convener Steven Lo Kit-sing. 'If they are talking about improvement works, they have to make it a better stadium for the fans.'
Lo, however, agreed the 6,600 seats would be sufficient for domestic competition as first division matches rarely exceed that number.
'We can move the bigger matches, like cup finals or internationals, to Hong Kong Stadium if needed,' he said.