HKCA's wishes for twin use of vacant land near Disney are rejected
A novel attempt by the Hong Kong Cricket Association to make use of a large tract of unused land next to Disneyland for the next five years to host an international polo tournament and domestic cricket has been shot down by one arm of the government, despite another saying they were receptive to the idea.
With the sport facing a dearth of grounds, HKCA president Rodney Miles revealed the association had been trying to get permission for the twin-use of an area at Penny's Bay.
This land has been ultimately designated as a site for Disney's extension by the government. But with the expansion only expected to happen in the next three to five years, the HKCA had hoped for a short-term tenancy to use the site as a cricket ground and as a venue for an international polo tournament.
"For months we have been trying to obtain support from the Tourism Board for a Hong Kong polo tournament that would be international, and could possibly draw in 10,000 spectators, both international and local," said Miles.
"Our plan was to use the polo tournament to obtain the ground, and from sponsorship support prepare the ground for polo and then, after the tournament is over, the ground would be kept in good condition by cricket, with us able to obtain two cricket grounds from this space," Miles said.
Feeling that there would be popular support for an international polo tournament, the HKCA contacted the Lands Department for approval of use of the site.
"We knew this land had been ultimately designated for the extension of Disneyland and it would be taken back at any time. But hopefully we felt we could use it for at least three to five years before it was taken over by Disney and in this way cricket would benefit.
"We were asked by the Lands Department to get the backing and support from the Hong Kong Tourism Board before they considered agreeing to this 'temporary land usage'. You would think support for any international tournament would be automatic, but after three months of trying to obtain a meeting with the Tourism Board, they came back to us and turned us down," a frustrated Miles said.
The Tourism Board wrote to Miles saying: "Temporary use of the subject land would be considered if the proposed use is complementary to the long-term development and operation of Hong Kong Disneyland and could help drive economic development of Hong Kong.
"Your proposed use [of the land] does not appear to tally with such intentions".
Angry with the rejection, Miles wrote a letter dated November 7 to Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung pleading for a rethink and stating his case again.
But on December 2, Eddie Lee for the Commissioner for Tourism, replied: "Having considered your proposal and all relevant factors including the extent of benefits it will bring to our tourism and other sectors, regrettably, we are unable to support your proposal.
"We will give priority to land use, which is complementary to the long-term development and operation of Hong Kong Disneyland and could help drive the economic development of Hong Kong."
Miles blasted the Tourism Board's decision.
"This land has been lying vacant for over 10 years and I am sure it will be for another 10," Miles said. "The main issue, however, is they are there to support tourism, not debate the temporary use of land."