Sports stadium eyed for expo space gets stay of execution

A sports stadium identified by the Hong Kong Government for redevelopment as conference and exhibition space has been spared – for now, writes Martin Donovan.

Carrie Lam, the Chinese special autonomous region’s chief executive, announced that three government buildings near the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) would instead be demolished to make way for additional space for the venue.

Development of plots near HKCEC in Wan Chai include Hong Kong’s first St Regis, due to open in January 2019. Lam did not rule out the athletics stadium being bulldozed in future to make way for venue space.

The decision to create additional space has been welcomed by the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA), which represents the local industry.

“The new venue must be connected to and integrated with the existing HKCEC to maximise the benefits,” Lam stated in her Policy Address. “Therefore, we have decided that for the time being, we will give up the identified site at the Wan Chai Sports Ground announced by the government earlier.”

Lam said the development would add about 23,000 square metres – roughly the size of 45 basketball courts – of venue space to HKCEC with hotels, retail and office space being built on top.

Shenzhen and lack of space pose threat to HK

She also recognised the value of the convention and exhibition to the Hong Kong economy and that there was a shortage of suitable venue space in the city. This resulted in conferences and exhibitions being held elsewhere in Asia due to lack of available facilities.

The city’s exhibition and convention industry association said in a statement: “To maintain the competitiveness of Hong Kong as the ‘Trade Fair Capital of Asia’ and to holistically address Hong Kong’s venue space shortage issue, we call on the government to proceed swiftly as our neighboring cities in China and in Asia are all in the process of building more convention and exhibition space.”

Lam said an additional convention centre would also be built above a metro-rail (MTR) station being built to serve a new line between Central and the New Territories district of Sha Tin.

However, the HKECIA said though it supported the expansion plans in Wan Chai and around AsiaWorld-Expo near the city’s airport, the association did not favour building what would be the city’s third venue.

HKCEC stands out from the crowd

“The HKECIA does not favor the option of a third venue in the city as this will not solve the problem of trade organisers seeking to hold a large-scale meetings and exhibitions under one roof,” it said.

“The exhibition industry has contributed a great deal to the Hong Kong economy over the years. In 2014, the exhibition industry contributed HK$52.9 billion (US$6.8bn) directly and indirectly to Hong Kong’s economy in terms of expenditure, equivalent to 2.3 per cent of the city’s total GDP. In the same calendar year, the exhibition industry also provided equivalent of around 83,500 full-time jobs in the exhibition industry and other service and supporting sectors,” the HKECIA added, referring to a 2014 Economic Impact Study it published.

“According to the Demand Study for New Convention and Exhibition Facilities in Hong Kong, conducted by AMR International in 2015, it is estimated that by 2028, around additional 132,000 sqm of convention and exhibition space would be required to capture all unmet demand during peak months.”

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