KBO clubs invest in swanky stadium upgrades
The SSG Landers on Wednesday unveiled the newly-refurbished locker rooms at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, part of a major facilities upgrade that puts the 20-year old stadium on a par with some big league ballparks.
The Landers reportedly spent about 4 billion won ($3.3 million) on the refurbishment, which comes one year after Shinsegae Group bought the Incheon baseball team through its affiliate Emart. As well as the locker rooms for both the home and away teams, training facilities have also been upgraded and new equipment brought in.
In terms of training facilities, the indoor batting range has more than doubled in size, allowing for three players to train at once, with a new pitching machine installed. The fitness center has also been expanded with new equipment added.
Behind the home team dugout, a new batting preparation room has been added, allowing batters to practice their swing while watching the opposing pitcher on a monitor.
The home and away locker rooms have had the most visible changes, with a large locker area for each player complete with a personal leather chair and plenty of storage. The spacious room has plenty of seating and has been decked out in Landers red with a large logo on the wall. The spacious new design wouldn't look out of place in the majors, with the fancy finishing touches easily rivaling some of the big leagues' newer clubhouses.
The clubhouse facilities have been upgraded alongside the locker room, with a new shower room, hot and cold baths and a newly-added Finnish sauna to help players relax. For those players that want to take that relaxation to the next level, there's also a sleeping room available.
Visiting team facilities have also been upgraded, with a larger locker room, refurbished showers, some exercise equipment and indoor training facilities.
The changes to the stadium have been well received by the Landers' two MLB alumni, Choo Shin-soo and Kim Kwang-hyun.
"If you look at the home clubhouse, I think it looks like a major league facility," Choo was quoted as saying by the JoongAng Ilbo. "I was surprised when I saw it."
Kim, who has only just returned to Korea after two weeks in the majors, was also impressed.
"The players spend a lot of time at the ballpark," Kim said. "Just having a nice chair is really important. I'd like to thank the club for giving it this much attention."
The Landers aren't the only KBO team to invest in new facilities over the last few years.
Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul, home of both the Doosan Bears and LG Twins, has also had some work done over the offseason.
At 40 years old, Jamsil was built for a very different era of baseball. The cramped clubhouse and lack of interior meant that even last season, players would have to dump their bags in the hallway because there simply wasn't enough space in the locker room.
While still less spacious than the Landers facilities, Jamsil is now home to newly refurbished locker rooms — presumably now with enough room for athletes to store all of their belongings — an upgraded restaurant, treatment rooms, showers and new offices for coaches and management.
At Sajik Baseball Stadium in Busan, the Lotte Giants have kept their changes on the field, transforming the stadium into a pitcher-friendly ballpark by adjusting home plate and the outfield wall.
Over the last three months, home plate at Sajik has been moved back 2.884 meters (9 feet, 5.54 inches) to increase the distance to the outfield wall. As a result, the distance from the plate to the wall along the left and right sides of the field have increased from 95 meters to 95.8 meters and the distance to the center of the outfield has increased from 118 meters to 120.5 meters.
The height of the outfield wall has also been adjusted, raising from 4.8 meters to 6 meters.
To make room for the changes, the bullpens have been moved from the outfield to the infield, taking the spots behind first and third plate where the "Exciting Zone" seats used to be.
The new Sajik measurements still make it a significantly smaller ballpark than the league's biggest field: Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul, home of the Doosan Bears and LG Twins. Jamsil boasts 125 meters from home plate to center field and 100 meters down the line to both left and right.
BY JIM BULLEY AND KIM HYO-KYUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]