Secret deal will see Nexen move to Ansan

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Secret deal will see Nexen move to Ansan

The Nexen Heroes reached a secret deal with a sponsor last August that will see the Mokdong-based club relocate to Ansan, Gyeonggi, by 2013, the Joong-Ang Ilbo reported.

Without informing the Korea Baseball Organization or any other clubs - an omission that’s expected to cause controversy - the Heroes signed a 2 billion won ($1.77 million), four-year agreement with a Kosdaq-listed company on Aug. 24, 2009. The money reportedly went to pay the cash-strapped team’s rookie contracts and incentive bonus payments for veterans.

Under the contract signed by Lee Jang-suk, the Heroes’ general manager, and a representative of the unidentified company, the two sides agreed to be partners in Ansan City’s project to build Korea’s first domed stadium.

The sponsor is in charge of building the 32,000-capacity stadium and a multi-purpose building. The Heroes are to relocate to Ansan by 2013 and use the domed stadium as their main venue. The Heroes will also receive 3 billion won per year for four years, in addition to revenues from the stadium.

Nexen Tire officials said there is no clause in their two-year sponsorship deal with the Heroes which limits the team to any one location.

Heroes officials, who in the past had maintained that they were a Seoul-based team and denied rumors that they would relocate to Ansan, declined to comment on the record.

The Heroes replaced the financially strapped, Suwon-based Hyundai Unicorns in February 2008 after reaching a three-year sponsorship deal with Woori Tobacco, and the team relocated to Mok-dong, western Seoul. But the sponsorship didn’t last long, as overdue payments to the KBO caused Woori to lose their sponsorship deal.

From August 2008 through last offseason, the Heroes played without a sponsor and pulled off several trades in exchange for cash and prospects in the offseason to offset some of the expenses of daily operations. The team managed to ink a two-year deal with Nexen, a tire manufacturing company, in February.

A domed stadium has been discussed in the past and is seen as a necessity in order for Korea to draw international competitions. The World Baseball Classic preliminaries is one of the events being sought by Korean baseball officials.

Ansan has been working on a project to build a domed stadium since 2007. City officials approved the plan in April 2009 and identified Hyundai Engineering and Construction as the top candidate to spearhead construction in December.

However, Ansan City and Hyundai have not reached a formal agreement at this point, and mayoral candidates who are campaigning for the June 2 election are debating whether to delay the project or proceed as planned.

By Choi Min-kyu []
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