Baseball stadium can’t find a teamThe Gocheok Dome, the first dome-type baseball stadium in Korea and a long-sought wish for baseball fans, is quickly becoming another white elephant.
Just like the Floating Islands, a failed city project consisting of three separate but connected man-made islands in Seocho District, southern Seoul, the 220 billion won ($191.8 million) baseball field is in danger of failing as the Seoul Metropolitan Government has failed to attract Seoul-based professional baseball teams as business partners.
The Gocheok project was spearheaded by former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon in 2009 after Korea took second place in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Fans and officials in baseball circles emphasized the necessity of building a domed baseball field in order to attract the WBC event in Korea and also improve the competitiveness of Korean baseball. Baseball games often get rained out during the rainy summer season, and a dome would eliminate cancellations.
In 2009, the city government began building the dome in a 57,261-square-meter (13.04-acre) area of Gocheok-dong, Guro District, northern Seoul. The municipal government said the field can accommodate 22,258 fans and offers many amenities, such as a swimming pool and a fitness center to be installed by December next year.
However, a problem has occurred: No baseball team wants this brand new ballpark. There are three Seoul-based professional teams: the Seoul LG Twins, Doosan Bears and Nexen Heroes. The Twins and Bears use Jamsil Stadium as their home and the Heroes use Mokdong Baseball Stadium.
The three baseball teams are avoiding the Gocheok Dome for two reasons - location and smaller seating numbers. It is also on the outskirts of Seoul.
If fans in southern or eastern Seoul want to see a game in Gocheok-dong, they have to travel more than an hour to get there. If fans choose to take public transportation, the only option is taking subway line No. 1, the oldest subway line in the country. From Guil Station, the stop for Gocheok, it takes 15 minutes on foot to the stadium.
The total capacity for the baseball stadium is 22,258, which is about 8,000 fewer than Jamsil Stadium. Fewer fans mean a decline in revenue for the team.
“We’re not considering using the Gocheok Dome for our home,” officials of the Bears and Twins said. “Jamsil is convenient for transportation and we already have many loyal fans in the area.”
The Seoul Nexen Heroes once considered using the dome, but recently decided not to leave the Mokdong stadium for similar reasons.
By Kwon Sang-soo, Yoo Seong-woon [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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