Hong Kong Open at Kai Tak Sports Park? Tennis tournament could relocate for retractable roof
Victoria Park has been the home of Hong Kong tennis for more than 35 years, but the prospect of new stadium with retractable roof would be ‘welcome addition’ to the WTA event
The Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open could possibly move from Victoria Park to Kai Tak if the multi-sports development on the site of the old airport has a covered stadium.
“We will consider every potential location that can serve to upgrade the event very carefully,” said Chris Lai, tournament director and CEO of the Hong Kong Tennis Association (HKTA).
All five editions of the fledgling WTA International Series event have been held at Victoria Park Tennis Stadium in Causeway Bay since it resumed in 2014.
The venue also hosted the tournament in its previous forms as a men’s competition on the Grand Prix tour from 1973 to 1987, and the ATP Tour from 1990 to 2002.
“That being said, Victoria Park is a very special site for us,” Lai said. “Not many tennis events in the world take place in the heart of the city and there is a lot of heritage and history at the Victoria Park site that, as the home of Hong Kong tennis for more than 35 years, we must preserve.”
One reason the HKTA could relocate the event to Kai Tak is the potential for a retractable roof, which would ensure shorter interruptions to play when it rains.
The Kai Tak Sports Park will feature a 50,000-seat stadium and two 4,000- and 5,000-capacity arenas on 28 hectares of Hong Kong harbourfront. The government is now reviewing the two final bids for the project, with the complex’s completion date in 2022-23.
Heavy rain delayed the start of last Wednesday’s schedule by four and a half hours. Tournament staff had to dry the courts with squeegees, blow drying fans and towels, with play finally getting underway at 7.30pm and finishing past midnight.Wang Qiang’s quarter-final against Elina Svitolina on Friday night was also suspended overnight because of rain, with China’s number one a game away from victory.
In 2017, finalists Daria Gavrilova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova did not get on court until 9.20pm on the final Sunday because of Typhoon Khanun. The match did not finish until past 1am because of further rain delays.
“We are always looking for ways to potentially upgrade the tournament to enhance the experience for both players and fans and a stadium with a retractable roof could be a welcome addition to the event,” Lai said.
Victoria Park Tennis Stadium does not have the infrastructure to add a roof, however, which would also be very costly.
Court covers like those used at grass court tournaments are not used at hard court events, because the court would still get wet with the temperature of the surface underneath the tarpaulin causing condensation.
Aside from the rain, the only other hiccup for this year’s tournament was the withdrawal of US Open champion Naomi Osaka through injury, with organisers claiming record attendance figures.
“We couldn’t be more happy with the overwhelming success of the tournament this year,” Lai said. “The week had so many special moments, from thrilling matches highlighted by the scintillating semi-final between Wang and [Garbine] Muguruza, to the exhibition match between Li Na and Eason Chan, to our expanded tournament village and activities, as well as the emergence of an exciting new star, our champion Dayana Yastremska.
“We are proud to stage a world-class event that reflects Hong Kong’s status as a global hub for travel and commerce, while engaging the community through a series of targeted initiatives and giving our local elite players an international platform to develop.
“Attendance to the tournament exceeded 60,000, a record high, and we are thrilled that the event continues to be so strongly embraced by both local and overseas fans in our fifth year.”