Kai Tak paddle sports centre gets the go-head

World-class facility for dragon boats, rowing and canoeing next to old airport now set to become a reality after thumbs-up from key government bodies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 3:07pm

A world-class water centre for paddle sports in the heart of Hong Kong has moved closer to reality after two key government bodies recently gave the project their stamp of approval.

The Home Affairs Bureau and the Harbourfront Commission's task force on Kai Tak have backed the Water Sports Council's proposal to create a regatta centre adjoining the runway at the old airport site in Kowloon East.

The council comprises the national associations for rowing, dragon boating and canoeing.

Mike Tanner, chairman of the Hong Kong Rowing Association, said: "This is excellent news. By showing their support for a water sports centre, we are one step closer to realising our dream for a world-class facility which can host major international events in all the different paddle sports."

Dr Raymond Ma Siu-ming, chairman of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Association, added: "Every year the government spends millions of dollars on creating a flat-water course for the international dragon boat races in the harbour. So why not save money by giving us a permanent place? This is absolutely good news for our sport."

On Tuesday, the Water Sports Council (WSC) gave a second presentation to the task force, spelling out in detail its plans for a multi-use water sports centre to cater to the strong public demand. The facility will include an international-standard regatta course for rowing, canoeing and dragon-boat racing as well as a kayak whitewater course.

Ian Brownlee, one of the main forces behind the plan and a consultant to the water sports associations, said: "Last August we presented our case, and while generally supportive, they had a few reservations. But this time they were fully behind us and gave us the nod to go ahead."

The WSC received a further boost last week, when the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) gave its blessing to the project. Annie Kong, on behalf of the secretary for Home Affairs, wrote: "The HAB welcomed the provision of new facilities that will help to promote sport at both the elite and community levels.

"We see clear merit in developing water sports facilities at Kai Tak, given the convenient location and the presence of other sports facilities under planning in the area, including the multi-purpose sports complex. We therefore support in principle the allocation of the site concerned for the development of the proposed water sports centre."

Brownlee said the next step would be to make a formal application for the 1.8-hectare site.

"There will be a lot of engineering work going on over the next five years or so in that area, so I'm not sure when the site will become available. But we will try to get temporary use of it so we can hold events," Brownlee said.

Tanner said the major hurdle had been overcome. "The support from these two key bodies was essential and crucial to our hopes. Now we have to start looking at how the project will be funded, designed and planned.

"I think the site will only become fully available to us by 2018 or 2019, but in the interim we are looking at holding events.

"We will have to look to the government for funding. But there have also been suggestions that the project go ahead on a public-private partnership, and we'll look at this as well."