Seoul’s recent announcement of a new dome stadium in Jamsil has raised as much concern as it has excitement.
On the 18th, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced, “We will build a world-class sports and mice complex with a state-of-the-art dome ballpark in Jamsil. We are currently finalizing the construction of the dome stadium and are planning the largest baseball stadium in Korea with more than 30,000 seats that can attract international games.”
This was delivered by Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon during a visit to Rogers Centre (home of the Toronto Blue Jays) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the basic idea is to create a stadium linked to a hotel like some Major League Baseball (MLB) stadiums. As a dome stadium is built in consideration of surrounding facilities and transportation, the construction period is considerable. As of now, the plan is to start digging after the 2025 KBO season ends in late 2031 and open in 2032.
The problem is that during the six years of construction, the two teams that call Jamsil Baseball Stadium home, LG and Doosan, will have nowhere to play. As of 2022, these are two of the most popular teams in baseball, with LG drawing 930,000 fans (first in the league) and Doosan drawing 644,000 (third). Moving just one of these teams would be a headache, but having to move two teams for at least six years would be an embarrassment for the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) and the teams themselves.
The KBO, along with LG and Doosan, have already approached the city of Seoul about finding a replacement stadium, but have not received a clear answer. Since both teams have ties to Seoul, the main candidates for a temporary home are a shared use of the Gocheok SkyDome, home of the Kiwoom Heroes, and Mokdong Baseball Stadium, which hosts the high school national championship.
However, there are many in the baseball community who believe that Mokdong Baseball Stadium should not be an alternative for any reason, real or symbolic. The first is that it’s not a realistic option for professional baseball. Even if it is remodeled at great expense, there are many difficulties in holding night games. Unlike Jamsil Baseball Stadium, Mokdong Baseball Stadium is densely populated with residences, so there have been complaints about the lights and noise of night games. As a result, night games for high school competitions have been banned since this year.
Although Mokdong Baseball Stadium is far below the standards of the professional leagues, it is at least baseball-playable for baseball officials. As one college baseball coach said, “Mokdong Baseball Field is good enough. At least the parents and scouts have a place to sit,” lamented one college baseball coach. If even Mokdong Baseball Stadium is given over to the pros, young players will have to travel to Sinyueol Baseball Stadium, Hongcheon Baseball Stadium, etc. where they won’t even be able to sit in the stands.
That’s where the Seoul Baseball and Softball Association comes in. In an official press release on the 20th, the association actively supported the construction of the Jamsil Dome Baseball Stadium in Seoul, but added, “However, we would like to point out that after the demolition of the Dongdaemun Baseball Stadium in 2008, Korean Amaya Baseball suffered a major blow as it moved around the country for seven years without a dedicated ballpark. Mokdong Baseball Stadium, which is the exclusive stadium for student baseball in Seoul and the exclusive stadium for amateur baseball nationwide, should not be used as a temporary home for professional baseball again, and the painful history of 100,000 amateur baseball players and their families moving around the country should not be repeated.”캡틴토토
Since 2015, Mokdong Baseball Stadium has hosted the finals of various national tournaments and is becoming a new symbol of amayageo, replacing Dongdaemun Stadium. However, as it was 15 years ago, its existence is once again under threat. The use of Mokdong Baseball Stadium by professional teams is enough to create the perception that amayageo, the milk of professional baseball, is taking a backseat. In that sense, LG and Doosan should definitely exclude Mokdong Stadium from the list of alternative stadiums. The baseball world is hoping that the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the KBO League Office will make a wise decision.