Kai Tak Sports Park is not just a sports infrastructure investment: it is a community investment too. Occupying 28 hectares of land, the sports park is about 9 hectares larger than Victoria Park. It is expected to contribute significantly to sports development in Hong Kong by promoting the enjoyment and benefits of sports, drawing major international events to the area, and supporting elite athletes with opportunities to compete on home ground.
Ideas for the project began in 2007. The plan, to this day, involves a 50,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof for sporting and entertainment events, a smaller outdoor stadium with 5,000 seats and an indoor venue with 4,000 seats.
Closely connected to local communities, the Sports Park will also provide large areas of landscaped parkland for daily enjoyment. Kai Tak’s multi-purpose facilities will also meet the increasing needs for sports in school.
Kai Tak’s unrivaled location spans over 320 hectares of land, largely fronting Victoria Harbour. The airport at Kai Tak was relocated to Chek Lap Kok in July 1998, offering a good opportunity for major development in the Metro Area. Therefore, the Kai Tak development is strongly following the principle of “planning with the community”. In fact, when the Government conducted three stages of a public participation programme between 2004 to 2006 to collect views on Kai Tak, people envisaged the park as a hub of sports, recreation, tourism, entertainment and quality housing. There will also be open space, park features, office accommodation and retail and dining outlets.
The project is being monitored by the Project Steering Committee, comprising members from relevant government bureaux and departments. The steering committee promotes smooth cooperation and communication between key parties, assisting the co-ordination between the Kai Tak Sports Park and other projects in the Kai Tak Development.
In order to implement the park, HAB established a project team in April 2014. The team includes administrative officers, leisure services manager and executive officers, who are responsible for the overall operations planning. In addition, professional architects, landscape architects, structural engineers, building services engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, civil engineers and quantity surveyors have assisted tender documents. Overall, HAB are monitoring the design and construction of the project.
KPMG and Advisian are acting as Kai Tak’s operations consultant in their exciting joint venture. They are responsible for formulating user requirements, business plans, financial projections and performance measurements for the operation of the sports park. KPMG and Advisian are also reviewing the procurement approach of the project, interpreting economic cost-benefit analysis, conducting turf studies and formulating management solutions. Finally, the team collects views from stakeholders (including sports sector and other potential users) on the design and operation of the Sports Park.
Leigh & Orange Limited (architectural lead consultant), WSP (HK) Limited (building services and structural sub-consultants) and Urbis Limited (landscape sub-consultant) are the technical services consultants. They prepare the conceptual drawings and technical specifications and are involved in tender assessment for the main project works.
Now that the contractors have been established, the city’s legislature can grant some money towards the HK$31.9 billion complex.
Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah revealed that the project received six bidders by July 2017. He said:
“It was more than what we had expected. We will choose three among the six as truly competitive bidders.” He also said that the number showed the bidders had confidence in the project.
The final three bidders will be given half a year to design the project. According to Mr. Kong-wah, with the winner will start work in the middle of next year, and should be finished by 2022 when the current government term ends. The two runner-ups will be compensated HK$60 million each.
Mr Kong-wah said he had three hopes for the project:
“First, we hope it would not turn into a white elephant [whereby the costs of constructing and maintaining the park outweigh the project’s financial gain]. It will host many competitions and activities. Second, we want it to be sustainable … and [third, we hope] the public could really enjoy it.”
Some of the construction will be funded by Hong Kong’s taxpayers. In exchange, the government plans to involve Hong Kong citizens every step of the way. They will invite young people to join the administration’s consultative committees through open recruitment, which has been assured as “open to all without prejudice”. The Secretary for Home Affairs said:
“We hope that different young people can also participate. In fact, young people should not be labelled. We also hope that different youngsters can utilise their strengths and express their voices”.
As encouraging as this is, it is difficult not to attribute some of the country’s interest in sports to the first ever commissioner for sports, Yeung Tak-Keung. Mr Tak-Keung has always held a passion for sports, and now, he is able to act upon it. He said:
“My interest in sport started from my school days. At Queens College and Hong Kong University I represented the schools in all sorts of sports – handball, football, basketball, athletics”
“I was the sports captain at HKU and organised sports activities. I’m still playing squash several times a week though I’m not young anymore.”
“I’m a very keen sports person and I’m very competitive on the sports field. It’s my main interest, if not the only one.”
Hong Kong’s first ever commissioner has already made two trips to see Barca at Camp Nou in one week during a family holiday over Easter. Here, he watched 10 different events in a week at the Beijing Olympics.
Mr. Tak-Keung was only appointed in 2016. Perhaps Hong Kong’s government have realised how important it was to have an official in charge of sport. Indeed, Yeung insists attitudes toward sport in Hong Kong have been improving. He said:
“I think sport is getting better and better in Hong Kong. In the past 20 years or even many years ago when I was a boy I would say there was a lack of sporting culture in Hong Kong.”
“When I was a student I represented the school and university, even Hong Kong in different ball games but I never told my parents. If I had told them they would say, ‘No, you better stay home and do your study, this is the only way out, you’re wasting your time.”
“So not one single time did my parents come to watch or support me – but now you go to youth competitions, interschool events and there are so many parents coming and supporting. That was unimaginable in the old days.”
It is easy to see that Mr. Tak-Keung has been astute in his assessments of change. He said:
“We are talking about cultural change… it will take time. I can see a lot of differences if you compare now with 10 or 20 years ago.”
“Even in 2004 when we announced the three policy objectives of sports development many people had doubts they thought whether this is sustainable.”
“People still think Hong Kong is a place for doing business, it’s a financial centre, sport maybe is secondary to other things, but now you can see people talking about work-life balance, more people want to participate in sports and cultural activities, so I think the mentality and culture is changing and that’s a good thing.”
Certainly, the prospect of Kai Tak will only enhance the growing positivity surrounding sports in Hong Kong.
“We are talking about cultural change, it will take time. I can see a lot of differences if you compare now with 10 or 20 years ago.
“Even in 2004 when we announced the three policy objectives of sports development many people had doubts they thought whether this is sustainable.
Among Yeung and his underlings’ responsibilities are “sports policy and strategic initiatives”, the sports commission, the football task force, resource management for the Hong Kong Sports Institute, Olympic Committee, the controversial Kai Tak Sports Park and sports public works projects in general and, bizarrely, “matters concerning giant pandas at Ocean Park”.
That last one – plus the fact that sport is still lumped in with arts and culture under the Home Affairs’ Bureau’s already vastly wide-ranging ambit – is a reminder that a completely separate sports department would be nice; the creation of Yeung’s role was at least a start.
He points to the fact that this year’s chief executive’s policy address was the first ever to have a dedicated sub-section to sport, rather than the cursory line or two it usually got (if that) towards the end of the speech in the past.
Leung Chun-ying pledged HK$20 billion over the next five years to develop new or existing sports and recreation facilities, and HK$1 billion for the elite athletes’ development fund.
There is some reason to be suspicious of some of that – the proposed scrapping of Wan Chai Sports Ground to expand the Convention Centre for example – but on the whole it is surely a good thing for sport and healthy lifestyles in Hong Kong.
“We think this is important,” Yeung says, “26 projects in different districts, football pitches, indoor centres, swimming pools …
“If you look at the policy address this is first time we’ve had a dedicated section for sport. Sport is our responsibility, so we play an important part in preparing that part.
“Look at the timing: after the Olympics in August we did a thorough review, consulted the sport sector, [then] in January the chief executive announced his policy address with so much investment in sport.
“We did a lot of work before that to bid for the resources. Internally in government we have a resource allocation exercise and we need to submit our justification and our bids to get resources.”
Part of the “bottleneck” in further boosting Hong Kong’s sporting culture is the lack of facilities, though Yeung highlights recent government sweeties to the sector such as the nearly finished football training centre at Tseung Kwan O and a former landfill site at Gin Drinkers’ Bay that the Cricket Association is going to use as a practice ground.
He hopes his main goal – getting the Kai Tak sports park finally built – will help alleviate some of that pressure on facilities.
The long-delayed project, first mooted some 20 years ago, has reached what looks like the final stage of approval after lawmakers voted – by just 18-17 – to send the funding request to the Finance Committee, though plenty more angry debate and pan-democrat filibustering is surely in store.
“It’s been deliberated and discussed at length in the Home Affairs panel and public works subcommittee, so we are hopeful the finance committee can spend relatively less time to examine it,” Yeung added.
God loves an optimist – over to you, Long Hair.