Beer finally debuts at the old ballgameA perfect weekend for me goes something like this: I wake up, lie down on the sofa and watch a baseball game. Major League, Korean, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the remote control, snacks and some ice-cold booze are within arm’s length and my cell phone is turned off.
I guess I could go to a game, but that would mean giving up one of the most important aspects of baseball for me: the ice-cold booze.
Afraid that drunk Korean baseball fans might get into brawls in the stands or jump the fence and attack the players on the field, the Korean Baseball Organization had long banned alcohol sales at the stadiums.
But the days of prohibition ended May 1, when the stadium in Jamsil, southern Seoul, started selling cans of domestic lager to thirsty fans during a game between the league’s two worst teams, the Doosan Bears and Lotte Giants.
According to stadium officials, the crowd of around 6,000 fans consumed about 1,500 cans of beer. Not bad for a first day, I would say. Any alcoholic beverage that is more than 6 percent alcohol will be still banned.
Before that historic day, fans who longed for something stronger than a Coke smuggled their own into stadiums. Few fans got caught, but those who did would usually just stand outside the gates and chug-a-lug their hidden cargo before they went inside. They were drunk even before the first inning, which is what league officials were trying to prevent.
Jamsil’s experiment with selling suds is expected to spread to baseball stadiums around the country.
Since the 2000 season, operation of stadiums was handed over to the teams from the local governments. Teams that are struggling financially, which is pretty much all of them in Korea, need new sources of revenue.
If proper security measures are taken I don’t see that selling beer during games should be a problem. Teams in the United States and Japan have been selling beer for quite some time and don’t seem to have major problems.
Sure, there are the occasional nuts who throw cell phones at players or run onto the field naked, but that could happen anyway.
The most important impact of the change will probably be financial. Officials in charge of operating Jamsil stadium expect to sell around a quarter-million 330-milliliter (11.2 ounce) cans per season. At 2,000 won ($1.66) a pop that would amount to 500 million won added to the Bears’ and LG Twins’ bottom lines.
With the introduction of the five-day workweek at a lot of companies, people will have more free time to spend at the stadium, and they will definitely want to knock back a few cold ones in the process.
Another thing I would also like to see, and I’ll probably take some heat for this, is a hike in ticket prices. To make a day at the ballpark a family event, ticket prices have to be affordable. But at a price range of 2,000 won to 10,000 won, it’s easy to see why the teams are losing money.
Korean baseball saw its peak in the ‘80s, when there weren’t many alternatives here. Since then attendance has been sliding, and the only way to change that is to give the fans what they want. Now that we can cross beer off our wish list, how about a domed stadium?
by Brian Lee