Kai Tak Sports Park go-to destination



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The Kai Tak Sports Park is a state-of-the-art multipurpose sports and entertainment complex that is being built at the site of the former Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

Darren Burden, Executive Director, Kai Tak Sports Park, Hong Kong, shared exclusively with ‘Coliseum’ during the recently held Coliseum Online Week MENA 2021 about different facets of the upcoming facility and how venues today are no longer just venues and are more of destinations.

Providing an insight into the thinking which goes behind mixed-use facilities, he said that the Kai Tak Sports Park in Hong Kong will be a destination unto itself “where people can go and discover the very best of sports, leisure and entertainment”.

Darren Burden said that some of the key objectives behind Kai Tak Sports Park “are to support athletes in Hong Kong, to attract major events to Hong Kong and to promote sports in the community”.
 

Excellent connectivity

Built on the site of the former Kai Tak Airport, the Kai Tak Sports Park enjoys excellent connectivity and is 35 minutes from the Hong Kong International Airport.

Says Burden, “In terms of connectivity, it is ideally placed. It is serviced by two rapid transit MTR stations (under construction). It is in a key strategic location within Hong Kong. Pre-COVID, we had 65 million visitors per year to Hong Kong with 28 million overnight stay. That is a huge opportunity in terms of market to tap into.”

He added, “In terms of the immediate vicinity of the site, we have three surrounding districts to Kai Tak Sports Park and the population within those three districts is 1.5 million people and basically live within a 30-minute walk of the site. When we open the sports park, we will have a significant population living literally on the boundary of Kai Tak Sports Park (read Hong Kong has a population of 7.5 million).
 

Project timeline

He informed that in 2012, the feasibility study was undertaken by the Government. It took another five years of gestation before the Government actually approved the funds. The whole tender process exercise took a year – 2017 to 2018 and in the very end of that year the Kai Tak Sports Park Limited was awarded the contract for the design, build and operation of the precinct for a period of 25 years. The construction commenced in February 2019.

Burden informed, “In 2021, the status is that we have pretty much completed all of the ground work and as far as the main stadium is concerned, we are up to level three now in terms of superstructure for the two main stands. It’s coming out of the ground rapidly and despite the grim COVID-19 situation, we are planning to complete and have all of the facilities operational by the end of 2023.”
 

Consortium structure

It is a 25-year design, build and operate contract. From the design and build perspective, Hip Hing are the main contractor, eminent design practice Populous is on the architectural side and Ska, a local architectural firm, is supporting Populous to bring up the spiffy mixed-use facility.

Says Burden, “Business planning being a critical component of this, we have actually looked at the customer journey the business plan associates with that and not essentially fed into the design decisions that have been made. Sportfive is helping us deliver commercial programs as well as our sports event procurement program and the community sports events as well.”
 

Vibrant content

The top official maintained, “One of the key elements is that we deliver world class experiences for our clients and our customers. During the design stage, we want to ensure that we are fully able to deliver that on completion. On the one hand, we will have people who come to the park for jogging, for community sports and also for major international events. We have a huge amount of bandwidth between what it could be from a leisure/recreational perspective to all the way up to elite sports and major international events.”

Burden added, “This is definitely a sports park and we are going to deliver content on a very much wider level, music and entertainment across our facilities as well as delivering those community programs across the entire site.”

The Kai Tak Sports Park will hold concerts featuring internationally acclaimed musicians, in sports it will be rugby, football, basketball, tennis, table tennis, athletics, and many more. It will also serve as a venue for corporate activities, festivals and a multitude of activations.
 

Facilities

The Indoor Sports Centre will not only accommodate the main arena but also an ancillary sports hall. The main arena will be used not just for sports but for other events as well.

Stated Burden, “One of the key features of the design is the central Kai Tak Sports Avenue which is a spine that goes straight through the middle of the site and really connects a number of places of the facilities. Retail facilities, bowling alley and retail mix which are more lifestyle-oriented which we feel is in keeping with the Kai Tak Sports Park philosophy, the Dining Cove comprises significant number of eateries. To the left hand side of the main stadium is the Event Village which can be used for events that take place along the precincts and will be a premium sports site in terms of delivering activations all year round in that location.”

He added, “We have number of outdoor courts in this location, beach volleyball, five-a-side soccer field, number of outdoor tennis courts, and a massive children’s playground as well. It will appeal to a mixture of people – from the very young to the very old. Last but not the least, we have the Health and Wellness Centre.”

Burden opined that the facilities speak in volumes that the Kai Tak Sports Park is “really a destination rather than the old-fashioned way of simply building a venue or venues and trying to put content within it”.
 

Main stadium

Burden informed that the main stadium has a 50,000 seating capacity. The capacity may be slightly more for concert-type events. The key feature is the subtly iridescent exterior cladding reminiscent of the ‘pearl of the Orient’ and it “gives a very sort of pearl effect from whichever way one looks at it and the wider the light will shine on it, it will prove to be a very key feature of Kai Tak Sports Park. It has a retractable roof which is key for the climate in Hong Kong and one of the main features is the grand South Stand which honors the Hong Kong Sevens (the premier tournament on the World Rugby Sevens Series competition).

A picture window overlooking Victoria Harbour as well as creating a big deck to enable that to be used either in conjunction with what’s happening in the South Stand and the events on the field.

He pointed out, “The other feature is that incorporated in the South Stand is actually a stage bouquet so that when we are delivering events we are able to use that stage bouquet.”

The Kai Tak Sports Park also comes armed with an Indoor Sports Centre which boasts a seating capacity of 10,000 and can accommodate 12 standard basketball courts. Notwithstanding the fact that the main arena itself can be used for a number of different non-sport uses – entertainment, concerts and the like.

The other venue inside the main venue is the public sports ground. This fundamentally is an athletic stadium but it can also accommodate rugby and football matches. The grandstand has a capacity of about 5,000 people and this facility can be used in conjunction with the main stadium for warm-up events.

Stated Burden, “We believe this is going to get us significant from an athletic perspective, particularly at the Hong Kong level and this is where the key objective of trying to support Hong Kong athletes will really come to the fore.”
 

Retail facilities

Burden observed that the retail component is really significant not only from a destination perspective but also from a financial perspective – “having a retail facility on site – f&b or malls – these provide a really good and steady income source for the precinct as a whole which underpins financially what we are trying to do in respect to other programs across the precinct. The retail component is a really key place for us.”

He concluded on a confident note that the Kai Tak Sports Park “is going to be a new destination in Hong Kong and not just a new stadium with sporting facilities.”

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