Legco gives green light to HK$62.7 million for Kai Tak stadium
A decade after its initial suggestion, the Finance Committee finally approves funding required for pre-construction work to proceed on sports complex
Hong Kong's sports community can breathe a sigh of relief after HK$62.7 million in pre-construction funds for the Kai Tak Multi-purpose Sports Complex was approved last night.
After more than two hours of debate, Legislative Council Finance Committee members cast their vote - with 29 for, 12 against and one abstention.
The HK$62.7 million will be used for consultancy studies on technical and quantity surveying, ground investigation as well as topographic and tree surveys before the actual construction on the venues can go ahead.
The approval has taken more than a decade after the idea for a sports complex was first put forward in 2004 and since then it has courted controversy.
From its passage through the Legco Home Affairs panel, the public works subcommittee to last night's Finance Committee, discussions had been heated at every step as lawmakers feared the project, estimated to cost taxpayers a staggering HK$25 billion in construction, would become a white elephant.
If everything goes according to the plan, construction can start in two years on a complex featuring a 50,000-seat main stadium with a retractable roof, a multi-purpose sports ground (5,000 seats) and an indoor multi-purpose centre (4,000 seats). All these venues will be built at the former Kai Tai airport site by 2021 at the latest.
"We have appointed a consultant on the operations of the future sports complex and we believe the new facility will not only be used by the local sports community, but also attract overseas users for sporting events, entertainment, business and exhibitions," Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Fung Ching Suk-yee said last night.
"The current Hong Kong Stadium has a usage rate of about 30 days a year because there are many restrictions such as noise and public access, but the new facility is more viable."
Hong Kong Football Association chairman Brian Leung Hung-tak welcomed the news.
"We desperately need a bigger stadium than the current one in So Kon Po, so we can be more confident in attracting real top-class overseas teams to Hong Kong," said Leung.
"The cost of inviting teams has grown in recent years and if we can have a bigger venue, we can get more fans in so that the average ticket price can be lowered. This is very important."
Last year, the association spent almost HK$30 million to bring the Argentina national team, headed by star Lionel Messi, for an exhibition match at the 40,000-seat Hong Kong Stadium. It had to dig deep into directors' pockets to cover an HK$11 million deficit.
Head squash coach Tony Choi Yuk-kwan was delighted.
"Hong Kong has produced many top athletes recently and the profile of sport has been raised in the community," said Choi, who is a Sports Commission member.
"More recognition is being given to our athletes and if a landmark is also going to be a sports facility, this will be big recognition of our efforts over the years.
"In fact, the Kai Tak project has been long overdue. Hong Kong is an international city and it's a shame there is no world-class sports facility to live up to its reputation. Many of our regional counterparts are building or have mega sporting venues."