We want wow, we want jaw-dropping, we want X factor. We want something befitting Hong Kong’s self-anointed claim as Asia’s World City. But what will we get in our new Kai Tak Sports Park and future home of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens ? Government constraints will ensure none of these at the new HK$30 billion project – and we certainly don’t see any in the limited information released. You can guarantee the park will be practical and functional and there is little doubt the government took the safe option in awarding the tender to a subsidiary of local property developer New World Development. That’s probably not surprising, with the fires it is fighting on construction crises and budget blowouts in mega infrastructure projects such as the Sha Tin-Central rail link. The last thing it needs is another project mired in controversy and delays. A retractable pitch flowing into a harbour amphitheatre – here’s the Kai Tak Sports Park design you will never see We could have made a statement on such a prized waterfront location – property developers were circling like voracious hyenas to gorge on the land for housing – but instead we have this to whet our appetite: “The Kai Tak Sports Park will provide high-quality facilities, not only for major events but also for daily enjoyment by the community. With a wide variety of sports venues, open spaces, park facilities, shops and dining outlets, it is set to be an urban oasis to meet the diverse needs of the public, and professional and amateur athletes.” Are you wowed? On closer inspection, the overview of the park is hardly jaw-dropping, but maybe the main stadium has inner surprises that will be revealed when Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her gang stand on the site and break ground later this month. Don’t hold your breath. Under the design, build and operate (DBO) model, the government picks up the HK$30 billion construction cost, while the newly formed Kai Tak Sports Park Limited will cover operating costs. It will also be required to pay the government 3 per cent of its gross annual income along with an extra HK$1.72 billion (US$220 million) over the 25 years of the contract. That’s a pretty sweet deal, say critics of the park’s construction, in particular, and of the government in general. Remember, the green light for the park barely changed to amber, one vote (18-17) got the funding request through in the Legislative Council’s public works subcommittee in 2017. Two consortiums pulled out in the bidding process, leaving New World and Guangzhou R&F to fight it out. New World followed the government’s Reference Design almost to the letter, while Guangzhou R&F Properties took a chance on its retractable natural grass pitch. We believe it piqued the government’s interest – hopefully they even stopped to explore the possibilities – but it was outside the Reference Design and we all know what that means in the machinations of our government. Rejection. We understand that Guangzhou R&F’s sports-loving chairman took that rejection badly – as you would expect after throwing his weight behind the bid and more than HK$60 million, the ceiling for a cashback refund. For someone who just had eight months’ work consigned to a digital grave, R&F managing editor Michael Lee appeared to be taking it remarkably well. There was no bitterness, just frustration at the processes and that the public will never see their creation. Lee was brought up in Australia so was immersed in sport, is active in the Hong Kong sports scene and hoped that the success in their model was a park for all. Hong Kong will build the world’s most expensive (Sevens) stadium. Can it please look like this … How could the government not be impressed by this sports lover with not only his company’s skin in the game, but his own? Simple, they never saw him until giving him the “thanks, but no thanks”. Here we have one of the biggest projects in Hong Kong and you don’t get to sell it in person. Just send over a truckload of documents to the Home Affairs Bureau and let some faceless government experts judge it on the black and white and whether all the boxes are ticked. “The biggest shame was not being able to ‘sell’ the idea and the vision,” said another key player in Lee’s team. “The bidding process was so sterile. “Kai Tak is about sport, participation, passion and engagement. Everyone is capable of designing, building and operating a stadium. What was missing was the X factor, the big idea. There was never an opportunity to sell the wow to the civil servants.” Wow is not in a civil servant’s wheelhouse, especially without guarantees. And there was no guarantee a natural grass pitch sliding into an outdoor amphitheatre arena to host events would work. “Conceptually, it’s great,” said another insider, but there was no evidence it would work, despite a handful of stadiums around the world featuring pitches that slide out to bathe in sunlight. Both consortiums’ designs for their main stadium feature a glazed facade above the South Stand – yes, there is a reincarnation for Sevens lovers, but they may have to take residence in the bigger North Stand – looking out on to the harbour with expansive podiums for fans to mingle, admire the view, while filling the park’s coffers thanks to food and beverage consumption. And that retail component underpins the park’s success, with New World probably winning that round as well. It’s tentacles are everywhere in Hong Kong. It also likely scored highly in the operate part as its partner SMG is a world leader in managing multiple stadiums, arenas and other venues arounds the world so it has an impressive CV. “The right team won,” said an impartial insider. That maybe so when singing the government’s tune, but some of us like different music.