Million-dollar baby: Private donations will keep troubled BMX venue open, vows top cycling official

Despite receiving no government subvention, the cash-strapped and money-losing facility will undergo renovation and hopefully reopen in December

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 September, 2016, 9:18pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 September, 2016, 11:20pm

The Hong Kong Cycling Association has vowed to keep its troubled BMX venue at Gin Drinkers’ Bay open, maintaining the cash-strapped facility would be renovated despite losing millions of dollars since it was built in 2009.

Chairman of the Hong Kong Cycling Association, Leung Hung-tak said they had no intention of ceasing operation of the International BMX Park which was built for the 2009 East Asian Games by the Hong Kong Jockey Club at a cost of HK$20 million, saying renovation work would begin soon “because of wear and tear of the facility”.

“The centre is self financing with no subvention from the government or other agencies, but thanks to the generous support of our office bearers, we are still running it after these years,” said the chief. “It’s a hot potato to a certain extent. In fact we could have handed it back to the government and simply waved goodbye to the facility, but we decide not to because we think it should be our own responsibility to maintain it.”

The centre, the first of its kind in Hong Kong with an international standard track, was built on a landfill site in Kwai Chung with a lease of 21 years offered by the government. It was in danger of closure after the association spent HK$7 million in its first three years of operations versus an income of just HK$1 million. In 2013, disgruntled fans staged a protest after the centre was closed for two weeks but was reopened after their voices were heard.

Since then, the association’s new president, Leung Cheong-ming, and other office bearers have been making a donation of HK$2 million a year with the bulk of the money paying off the centre’s debts and helping run the day-to-day operations.

But without major renovation at the centre during these past few years, the venue is in poor condition, especially for the overused track.

“We have plans to renovate the track and the decision was endorsed at the association’s council meeting early this week,” said Leung. “But since it involves a large sum of money and we are running it from our own resources, he would have to do it at different phases.

“The first phase will go out for tender soon and if everything goes according to plan, we can start renovation in November and hopefully it can be completed in one month.”

Leung said the first phase is estimated to cost HK$400,000 with funding coming from the association’s savings. The next three phases will be done on a smaller scale.

At the moment, no competition has been allowed at the centre for safety reasons. Officials hope racing can resume in December.

BMX became extremely popular when disgraced rider Steven Wong won the 2005 National Games in Nanjing. He had more success at the 2009 East Asian Games when he won the gold medal at the Gin Drinkers’ Bay venue. Wong completed a hat-trick with a 2010 Asian Games gold medal in Guangzhou. But Wong tested positive for steroids in an out-of-competition test in 2012 after shifting to road racing with a professional team. He was handed a two-year suspension for doping.