Carrie Lam says Wan Chai Sports Ground will be demolished – eventually
Lam makes it clear the venue sits on prime property and the government could not give up on redeveloping the land
Initial jubilation over saving the Wan Chai Sports Ground from demolition was muted on Thursday after Hong Kong’s leader said the land the iconic venue sits on was too valuable not to be developed.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor surprised the sports community on Wednesday during her maiden policy speech when she said the Wan Chai Sports Ground would be spared demolition.
Instead, she announced plans to redevelop three government buildings next to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre into a new wing with 23,000 square metres of space, hotel facilities and Grade A office spaces.
Track and field athletes and enthusiasts had been up in arms over the demolition proposal because the sports ground, opened 38 years ago, remains the city’s most popular training and competition venue. Fans have witnessed some of the Hong Kong records at the hallowed ground, including Tsui Chi-ho’s men’s 100 metre and Tang Yik-chun’s 200m marks.
But on Thursday, Lam made it clear that the venue sits on prime property and the government could not give up on redeveloping the land.
“In the future, if we can find a good place to relocate the sports ground, I hope the sports community would accept it.”
With the plan to build a HK$31.9 billion sports park at the site of the former Kai Tak airport, Lam said that many events that have been held at Hong Kong Stadium – with a maximum seating capacity of 40,000 people – would be held at the sports park in the future.
That means Hong Kong Stadium, just a 10-minute drive from the Wan Chai Sports Ground, could possibly become a new home for the Wan Chai Sports Ground, Lam said.
“At present, there are no tracks at the Hong Kong Stadium. But improvements could be made.”
Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association welcomed Lam’s plan to spare the popular stadium from the becoming part of the Wan Chai exhibition centre despite its unclear future.
The 38-year-old stadium is one of only three track and field venues that allow training for its 9,000 registered members, he said.
Lam’s plan “at least buys us some time”, said Kwan Kee, the association chairman.
Based on his understanding, Kwan said the government made a promise to keep the facility until a proper allocation plan was arranged.
By contrast, under her predecessor Leung Chun-ying’s proposal, the stadium would have to be demolished first – with or without a relocation site.
“I won’t comment which plan is better,” Kwan said.
In Leung’s final policy address delivered in January, he proposed a comprehensive redevelopment of the site in 2019 at the earliest as an extension of the adjacent Convention and Exhibition Centre.
While Lam’s proposal of turning the three government buildings to a new wing of the Wan Chai exhibition and convention centre means the government will not be able to pocket the money from selling the land as a whole, analysts said decent revenue could still be made from redeveloping the buildings.
“If we assume the parameters under the previous plan will remain unchanged, then slightly over 1.6 million sq ft will still be available for office or hotel development,” Marcos Chan, head of research at real estate consultancy CBRE Hong Kong said.
“So it will not have a significant impact from a commercial perspective, as the 23,000 square metres allocated for convention and exhibition usage merely represents 13 per cent of the gross floor area.”