Kai Tak
International Watersports Centre

It’s time for an update on progress towards the creation of this important addition to the Kai Tak Sports Hub, the proposed multi-sports development on the site of the old airport at Kai Tak, in Hong Kong.

In October, the Town Planning Board released TPB Paper No. 10192, being a Review Study of Kai Tak Development. In this paper government indicated that it intends to rezone the site previously identified for the Water Sports Centre (WSC) from ‘GIC’ (Government, Institution and Community) to ‘Commercial’.

At the same time, government has recognized the importance of water sports at Kai Tak and has proposed to permit such use in the ‘Open Space’ zone.

So is there a problem? Well, yes, for the following reasons.

Home Affairs Bureau had previously indicated that some of the water sports facilities could be incorporated in the future Kai Tak Park. However, there is unlikely to be sufficient land in the park for the provision of the boat storage and ancillary facilities that were intended to go into the GIC site.

Although the government has been provided with full details of everything needed for the WSC, the TPB paper indicates that planners are underestimating the additional temporary land requirements of major events with the consequent risk that what might be provided could fall well short of what is needed. Without a clearer understanding of these requirements input at the planning stage, Hong Kong can forget about hosting World and Asian championships and other high-level water sports events.

Following the issue of the TPB paper, the Water Sports Council has proposed an alternative approach based on the fact that the required facilities can be confined to two floors. Since the airspace above the WSC can be used for other purposes, a combined development is possible on the original site, with the WSC on the ground and first floors leaving the upper floors allocated for commercial space. It would be disappointing if this creative and easily-effected solution to the problem was turned down.

Given the length of time being taken to finalise plans for Kai Tak, combined with the changing emphasis on land use, the needs of a true international WSC need to be revisited and reconfirmed. It is unrealistic to think that facilities for the international WSC can be just shoe-horned in after all other planning requirements have been met. Such an approach would be a serious error and would deprive Hong Kong of this unique opportunity to provide a water sports centre capable of hosting international events.

It is now, therefore, time to set up a working group consisting of representatives from the concerned government departments, together with representatives from water sports governing bodies and their consultants. The brief of the working group should be to ensure that the eventual water sports centre meets the full requirements of the international sports federations as well as the requirements for accommodating the substantial anticipated daily demand for use
by the community.

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