Urbco reins in stadium costs

THE cost of fitting out the new Hong Kong Stadium will be about $175 million - more than 50 per cent higher than first estimates.

The Urban Council yesterday rejected a request for an extra $125 million for fitting out the stadium, whose $850 million construction is fully financed by the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Councillors were unclear as to whether the taxpayer should shoulder the outstanding cost, since the Jockey Club also designed the project and Wembley International, a British based-company, has management rights to the stadium.

Councillors also questioned how and when the council would get the money back.

The Jockey Club's quantity surveyor initially put the fitting out cost at $115 million, and $50 million was advanced in May this year.

At about the same time, a detailed design was finalised according to Wembley's requirements and the quantity surveyor put the cost at $283 million, prompting Wembley to review the plans. By July, the cost was pruned to $160 million.

However, when the fitting out project was put to tender, it became apparent that the price would be at least $200 million.

After another cost-cutting exercise, it was decided that $175 million would provide a stadium fitted out to international standards of comfort and safety.

Yesterday's closed-door meeting of the council was asked to approve spending up to the $175 million ceiling, providing the extra $125 million on the understanding that up to $15 million of it might yet be saved after negotiations with the operators.

Councillors, however, refused to grant the rest of the extra money because they felt Wembley had failed to provide convincing reasons for the growing costs.

Councillor Wong Sui-lai of the United Democrats said some members questioned the need for such a luxurious design.

Mr Wong said the management also could not give solid answers as to the rate of return for such a huge expense.

Daniel Wong Kwok-tung from the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood said the management had only stressed the need to build a grand stadium, and was urging the council to pass the application to catch up on the timetable for the next Rugby Sevens.

The Urban Council will discuss the matter in two weeks and will ask Wembley for more information.