Safe as houses? Kitchee soccer centre dodges development threat – for now
The government’s support of the new project provides a significant assurance to the future of the controversial training centre in Sha Tin
The Kitchee soccer training centre, once under the threat of housing development, has been given a new lease of life after the government endorsed its HK$20 million expansion project.
Although the centre’s land use condition remains a short-term lease on a year-by-year basis, the Kitchee Foundation, which runs the 15,000-square metre facility in Sha Tin near the Shek Mun MTR station, is building a new storey above the current structure for a sports medicine facility in collaboration with Chinese University.
The government has no objection to the constructiondespite the strict land use rule.
“We are in support of the expansion, although the centre remains on a short-term lease,” said Commissioner of Sports Yeung Tak-keung.
“The project has gone through various government departments such as the Lands Department, the Buildings Department and this new facility is in line with the objectives when the centre was built. As the policy bureau, we will support it.”
Opened in 2015 with a HK$63 million donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the centre has two 11-a-side pitches covered by state-of-the-art artificial turf and other support facilities, including a fully equipped gym, administration offices and changing rooms.
While other Premier League clubs must book pitches for training through the government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department and compete with the public, league champions Kitchee have the luxury of their own facilities.
However, the last government under chief executive Leung Chun-ying wanted the land back just one year after the centre was open despite its limited space.
And under repeated pressure from the sports community and the general public, Leung said the government would only take back the land after a new site had been found.
The commissioner said the relocation process was still ongoing, but no suitable site had yet been identified. This allows Kitchee to use the centre for an indefinite period.
Kitchee coach Chu Chi-kwong said the expansion project, set to be completed next year, would help the players with better sports science and sports medicine services.
Professor Patrick Yung Shu-hang, director of the Centre for Sports Medicine and Sports Sciences at Chinese University, said they would use the new facility to further promote sports wellness in the community and the prevention and treatment on sports injuries.
They would also hope to collect more data through the new project for their research team and help the development of sports medicine in Hong Kong.
Kitchee, who are unbeaten this season, need only one point on Friday night against Pegasus to clinch their second consecutive Premier League title.
The defending champions lead Pegasus by eight points with three games to play.