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Kitchee SC

Fears realised as Kitchee soccer training centre in Sha Tin makes way for housing development

The government will find a new site to relocate the club’s HK$84 million facility, which opened just last year, to address pressing shortage of homes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 10:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 11:21pm

Kitchee’s HK$84 million training centre – that is only a year old – must move to make way for housing development after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said last night that a new site would be found for the football club.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Lui Che Woo Prize awards ceremony at the Convention and Exhibition Centre last night, Leung said the government would find a new site before asking Kitchee to move out.

Leung stressed that the government “attached great importance” to the Kitchee Centre’s contributions to the promotion of football and the overall development of sport in Hong Kong, but the government had to weigh these problems with other issues such as the shortage of land and housing.

“Public housing tenants and applicants must queue up for flats, rents are expensive and property prices are high,” he said.

The 15,000 square-metre training centre located near Shek Mun MTR station in Siu Lek Yuen, Sha Tin, has two 11-a-side pitches, a gym, office and changing rooms. Work on a second phase involving a two-storey administration building is under way.

Leung added: “The public housing [development] will take place in phases. If we do rezone this land, the first phase will not involve the land Kitchee Centre is leasing on a short-term basis. But before relocation, we will not be taking back the land.”

Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin said the club had a short-term tenancy agreement with the government that had to be renewed in 12 months.

Ng, however, said earlier that he remained confident they could continue their business beyond 2017.

“The government has the right to take over the property at the end of the lease, but we don’t think this is in the best interest of community development and the development of sport in Hong Kong as well,” he said before Leung’s comments last night.

“The piece of land is designated for recreational use since we first conceived the idea of the project. It was designed, developed and built under the policy support provided by the government’s Home Affairs Bureau in consultation with other relevant departments for the sake of future development of soccer in Hong Kong.

“One third of its time is open to the public, which helps alleviate the shortage of soccer facilities in Hong Kong. As long as we run the facility satisfactorily, we have strong reason to believe the bureau will support an annual renewal of the land lease.

“There may be other land parcels in Hong Kong, often measured in hundreds of hectares that can help solve the city’s mounting housing issue but the future of Hong Kong soccer will undoubtedly suffer a huge setback without the centre that occupies a mere 1.5 hectares.”

Ng said if there was any change to the usage of the site, it had to go through the Town Planning Board and he appealed to the board for careful consideration.

“The centre is centrally located within the proximity of the “sports hub” in Sha Tin, including Chinese University of Hong Kong [for sports science research], the Prince of Wales Hospital [for sports science clinical services] as well as the Sports Institute,” he said.

HK$84 million up in smoke? Kitchee fear losing modern training centre to housing project

“Kitchee is also in discussions with Chinese University to develop a Fifa-accredited sports science clinic at the centre as part of its second phase of development.

“A lot of effort and resources have been dedicated to the project and the benefits of having such a centre are felt greatly by the soccer community and the general public.

“We are willing to discuss with relevant government departments and the Town Planning Board to reach a reasonable conclusion about the future of the centre and we strongly believe the development of Hong Kong soccer will prevail.”

Kitchee have used the facilities since August last year. The facility, of which HK$63 million came from a Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust donation, officially opened in September last year.