Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying proposed Wednesday that the Wan Chai Sports Ground will be redeveloped into a new convention and exhibition centre, as well as “trendy and novel” recreation and sports facilities.

Leung said in his final Policy Address that the sports ground will be used for comprehensive development as early as 2019. Other “necessary community facilities” for the district will also be built, though he did not specify what they may be.

wanchai sports ground
Wan Chai Sports Ground. Photo: Wikicommons.

He said a feasibility study will be conducted by the Trade Development Council, and that the government will consult the Wan Chai District Council and other stakeholders.

Opened in 1979, the sports ground has been a major venue for school competitions. The proposal has drawn criticism from the public and the sports sector. The Wanchai Commons, a pro-democracy citizen group, said it “strongly opposes” the plan.

2017 Policy Address
Copies of the 2017 Policy Address are distributed. Photo: HKFP/Tom Grundy.

Long-distance runner Christy Yiu Kit-ching, who represented Hong Kong in the 2016 Olympic Games, told HK01 that she was “a bit shocked” by the plan and that she had many memories associated with the sports ground.

“The Convention and Exhibition Centre is not small, so I don’t really understand why it needs [the sports ground] for its expansion,” Yiu said, adding that the facility – situated near restaurants and with good transportation access – is a good location for athletes.

Christy Yiu Kit-ching
Christy Yiu Kit-ching. File Photo: Christy Yiu, via Facebook.

Lawmaker Tanya Chan of the Civic Party said the plan showed that Leung was “greedy,” as previous plans suggested that there were other places suitable for building a new convention and exhibition centre.

She added that, if the government went ahead with the plan, there would only be two sports ground left on Hong Kong Island.

But runner and coach Chan Ka-ho told HK01 that “some things must be sacrificed” given the shortage of land supply. “If you ask me if [the proposal] is a good idea or not, of course I would say no, but having considered other factors, there is nothing we can do about it,” Chan said.

Wan Chai Sports Ground
Wan Chai Sports Ground. Photo: Wikicommons.

A new sports ground – the Kai Tak Sports Park – is already under construction. It will include a sports ground with 50,000 seats and is expected to be completed by 2021. Chan believes most of the sports events that are currently held at the Wan Chai Sports Ground will be moved to the Kai Tak Sports Park.

Leung said in Wednesday’s Policy Address that the government planned on spending HK$20 billion over the next five years to launch 26 projects to develop new sports facilities or improve existing ones.

They include two sports grounds, nine football pitches, four swimming pool complexes, four tennis courts, 11 outdoor basketball courts and 20 open spaces.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.