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HK$84 million up in smoke? Kitchee fear losing modern training centre to housing project

Champions Kitchee’s HK$84 million investment in their training centre in Shek Mun is likely to go up in smoke with the government keen to take back the land for housing development.

The facility, built on 15,000 square metres of land in Sha Tin, opened last year and is equipped with two 11-a-side grounds covered by state-of-the-art artificial turf pitches. Work on a second phase, including a two-storey administration building with an additional budget of HK$20 million, is also underway.

While other Hong Kong Premier League clubs must book pitches through the government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department and compete with the public, Kitchee have the luxury of their own

facilities. They also have a fully equipped gym, office and changing rooms following a HK$63 million donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.

WATCH: Kitchee Training Centre

But all this may be destroyed by the wrecking ball after it was revealed on Friday that Leung Chun-ying’s government wanted to change the recreational facility into a housing development site despite its limited space.

Sha Tin District Councillor Michael Yung Ming-chau posted a comment on social media that the Kitchee Centre location sits on the second phase of the government’s “Proposed Subsidised Sale Flats Development at On Sum Street in Shek Mun”, which will see a total three blocks of buildings in two phases.

“I was approached by the government through soft lobbying that they want the land back for housing development,” said Yung. “The first phase of the development can start soon as its original user, the Polytechnic University, will not take the land and the Kitchee Centre is under plans for the second phase.

“The government did not say when the second phase will start as this will only happen after the Kitchee Centre moves out. We know the centre is on a short-term lease and this means it can happen very soon.”

Kitchee boss Ken Ng Kin was unavailable for comment on Friday, with a spokesperson saying they were studying the issue. But Ng mentioned in 2012 before they started construction that the centre was on a five-year short-term lease, expressing confidence of staying beyond its expiration.

“That area is designated for recreational use, but at the moment the government has no plan to develop it,” he said at the time. “If we can run a good training centre and help the development of young players in Hong Kong, I don’t think the government will take back the land after five years.”

The public can also use the Kitchee facilities for about one-third of the time, with charges similar to other government facilities.