Wan Chai trio face wrecking ball as sports ground gets reprieve

Top News | Sophie Hui 12 Oct 2017

The Wan Chai Sports Ground will be spared redevelopment. Instead, Wanchai Tower, Immigration Tower and Revenue Tower will be toppled to allow the expansion of the adjacent Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

This was the big surprise in Carrie Lam's address.

She explained: "There is a pressing need for new venues for the convention and exhibition industry, and the government decided to tackle this long- standing problem.

"Otherwise, Hong Kong will miss the opportunities to host some of the large-scale conventions and exhibitions that are either internationally important or newly launched."

The three government buildings will be demolished for an additional space of about 23,000 square meters. The additional space will provide more high- level facilities like hotel and Grade A office space.

She said the government will leave the sports ground for now but may use it later for further additions to the convention center.

Meanwhile, another new convention center now being developed above Exhibition Station on the Sha Tin to Central Link will provide 15,000 square meters of space on completion.

The government also proposed to upgrade and enhance the footbridge network in Wan Chai North and its surroundings to connect the convention and exhibition facilities to Wan Chai, Admiralty and all the stations of the Sha Tin to Central Link.

It will also improve the traffic arrangements in the vicinity and the efficiency of the roads linking Wan Chai North after completion of the Central- Wan Chai Bypass.

A spokesman for the HKCEC welcomed the announcement to "ensure the continued growth of the industry."

The chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association, Stuart Bailey, said he was encouraged by the announcement.

He said there is a shortfall of about 132,000 square meters of exhibition space, making it difficult for the industry to book the venue, especially during peak season.

It is also hard for the existing exhibitions and trade shows to have more space when they want to expand. Another exhibitor, Daniel Cheung Wai- hung, general manager of UBM HKES, also welcomed the announcement but described it as "just a drop in the bucket."

He reckoned it would reach saturation in a short time because of the severe shortage of exhibition space.

Cheung said it is necessary for Hong Kong to have more exhibition space to maintain the city's competitiveness, as Shenzhen is building the world's largest convention and exhibition center.

He said some exhibitors go to cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou, as they cannot find venues in Hong Kong, which means the SAR has been losing business.

Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun and New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee welcomed Lam's announcement.

However, travel sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the government should consider the redevelopment of the Wan Chai Sports Ground in the long-run as there would be more sport facilities in Hong Kong, including the Kai Tak Sports Park.

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