Stars from Hong Kong's sporting world bid fond farewell to MacPherson Stadium

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 October, 2008, 12:00am

Having served sports and recreation activities for over half a century, the Queen Elizabeth II Youth Centre - or MacPherson Stadium - has hosted its last game.

Opened in 1953, the 'Coliseum of Hong Kong' in Yim Po Fong Street, on the edge of Mong Kok, will be redeveloped into residential and commercial housing, but equipped with a modern multi-purpose indoor stadium.

The 1,850-seat centre will be made vacant at the end of this month and is expected to reopen in four years.

'Most players start in MacPherson Stadium and that's why it has been called the cradle of Hong Kong basketball,' said Sam Ho Wai-hing, senior sports executive at the Basketball Association.

'But the stadium has been in use for more than 50 years and many facilities cannot meet the standards now. It's time to replace it with a modern venue.'

Ho said with other modern facilities being built in recent years, the stadium was seldom used for major international tournaments, but its accessibility still made it a popular venue for the fans, especially for the domestic league and cup play-offs which always recorded full houses.

No one could have played more games there than former Hong Kong team captain, Ng Chu-yip. He first started in the 1978 season with Division A2 side Youth and retired in 2004.

'I have played here for more than 20 years and of course everything will be missed when it is demolished,' said the point guard, who ended his career with Division A1 side Winling after capturing 11 league championships with various clubs.

'The atmosphere was good because the spectators were always close to the ground. I remember when I first started, there was a cement floor and no air-conditioning. Fans had to bring their own paper fans to watch the games.

'But we all look forward to the new stadium. Hong Kong basketball deserves a better facility to develop the sport.' Ng, who led Regal to Asian Champions Cup victory in 1997, said he would remember the big timer. He showed every foreign player how it worked when they started for the first time at the stadium.

'It was a bit funny because they had never seen anything like that to keep time on a basketball court,' said Ng.

Marksman Yung Kam-wah said he would miss the mirror inside the changing room because that was the first thing the players saw when they arrived in the stadium.

'We are all familiar with the stadium as it has been used for such a long time,' he said. 'The atmosphere here is always good because of the close contact with the fans, but having said that the quality of the game should always come first.

'We badly need a better facility so we can play better basketball, and hopefully the new stadium can help on areas such as floor, lighting, scoreboard, timer and other hardware that meets modern standards.'

Badminton player Amy Chan Lim-chee said she also had fond memories of MacPherson Stadium.

'All big badminton events were held at MacPherson Stadium,' said Chan, who once topped the world mixed doubles rankings with partner Chan Chi-choi. 'I still remember the night when we clinched the World Cup Invitation mixed doubles final here in 1979 and the overwhelming response from the crowd.'

Wang Yiu, senior stadium manager of the Playground Association which runs the centre, said the redevelopment would provide a more comfortable experience for spectators.

'All seats will change to cushioned armchairs instead of the existing bleachers and the capacity will remain about 1,750 so a similar number of fans can be entertained,' he said. 'The new multi-purpose stadium will not only be used by basketball, but also other non-sports events. Small pop concerts as well as exhibitions are also welcome.'

End of an era

MacPherson Stadium has been an integral part of Hong Kong's sporting landscape since it was opened in: 1953

To the rafters

MacPherson Stadium was famous for its intimate atmosphere. It had a capacity of: 1,850