Tigers unveil plans for new stadium

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Tigers unveil plans for new stadium

The Kia Tigers’ front office hopes to open Korea’s first-ever stadium built specifically for the purpose of hosting baseball games by 2014. Club officials announced on Tuesday that the team will invest 30 billion won ($26.3 million) over the next three years - or 10 billion won per year - on construction of the new stadium.

In return, the Kia Tigers received naming rights to the stadium, a 25-year lease and rights to the concession stands.

Gwangju Mayor Kang Woon-tae has promised 40 billion won, and the project will also receive 30 billion won from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

With the 2015 Summer Universiade set to take place in Gwangju, the project could potentially receive further government support.

Named after Kia K9, a luxury sedan, the K9 Baseball Park will have an exhibition area in the main lobby displaying a series of Kia vehicles.

The concession stands will be operated directly by the club’s front office.

The stadium, which will replace the existing Moodeung Stadium in Gwangju, is expected to seat 25,000 fans, or nearly double the capacity of Moodeung Stadium, which can hold 13,872 spectators.

Opened to the public in 1961, Moodeung, a multiuse facility, is one of the oldest stadiums in the league. Poor ground conditions at the stadium have caused numerous injuries in the past.

The financial investment by Kia’s mother company, Hyundai Motor Co., in the current project is unprecedented. Considering the Kia Tigers have an annual fixed budget of 20 billion won, the decision to invest 30 billion won over the next three years on a new stadium is huge.

It also ranks as the biggest investment from a sponsor of a KBO franchise in the history of the league. The decision comes a year after the Kia Tigers won the Korean Series in the 2009 season.

“The players of the Kia Tigers managed to pull off a valuable Korean Series win under tough circumstances,” Hyundai Motor Co. Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun told Kia players after they won the 2009 Korean Series. “I know that financial support for the team was lacking in the past. I promise to support this team like other successful clubs around the league.”

The Kia Tigers’ front office figures to profit significantly from the new stadium. By having the rights to all aspects of the stadium operations, including the concession stands, Kia stands to gain sizable profits.

The LG Twins and Doosan Bears, who play at Jamsil Stadium in southern Seoul, and the Lotte Giants, who play at Sajik Stadium in Busan, are the only teams in the KBO that operate concession stands.

“We don’t have any definite figures at this point, but with a 25-year lease on the stadium, we should be able to get a return on the 30 billion investment from the concession stands alone,” said Kia Tigers President Kim Cho-ho.

By Kim Seek, Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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