More details needed on plans to redevelop Hong Kong Stadium
- District councillors are right to question ‘hidden agenda’, as what Hong Kong Island needs is more sports grounds not fewer
It is difficult to imagine Hong Kong having much use for two 40-50,000-seat stadiums unless, perhaps, China one day realises its dream of hosting a World Cup soccer tournament and invites the city to help host the many group qualifying games. But that remains a long way off. Even then, one stadium might suffice. Since the long-awaited, HK$30 billion sports centre at the old Kai Tak airport site, including a 50,000-seat stadium, is supposed to be completed by 2023, it makes sense for the government to consider how to make the best use of the existing 40,000-capacity Hong Kong Stadium at So Kon Po.
A plan unveiled by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department for consultation envisages removal of all but 8,000 to 9,000 seats to make way for redevelopment of the stadium as a public sports ground for community and school events, including natural-turf soccer and rugby pitches and an athletics track. The latter is a notable omission from the Kai Tak development. The department says it has received support for its plan from the controlling bodies of the sports concerned. The new spectator stand would have affiliated facilities such as multi-purpose conference rooms and a media centre.
The plan raises concerns that led to the Wan Chai District Council withholding its backing over the lack of detail, even though the project is still in the conceptual stage. Some expressed concern about a “hidden agenda” to redevelop Wan Chai Sports Ground, which does have an athletics track, to make way for more convention space near the heavily used Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
There is no question the proposed redevelopment of Hong Kong Stadium would put it to better use once an alternative big-event venue is built. But the concerns of Wan Chai district councillors are understandable. What are they to make of the duplication of the sports ground athletics track in the Hong Kong Stadium redevelopment; or of the department’s observation that the four existing sports grounds for the 1.1 million people of Hong Kong Island exceeded the standard of one serving 200,000 to 250,000 people suggested in a government guideline. Since the city is so densely developed, it surely cannot afford to lose one. There is room for more detail and transparency to inform debate.