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KBO to file administrative suit against Changwon in dispute over stadium site

All Headlines 19:02 May 30, 2013

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, May 30, 2013 (Yonhap) -- The nation's top baseball league announced Thursday it will soon file an administrative suit against the home city of an expansion ball club over its controversial selection of a site for a new stadium.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said it has decided to take legal action after Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, earlier this month refused to disclose details behind its decision to pick a remote location to build a new ballpark for the NC Dinos.

The Dinos joined the KBO this year as the league's ninth and newest team. They're currently playing at a renovated Masan Stadium, which can seat up to 20,000 fans. Under an agreement with the KBO, reached when the Dinos were approved as an expansion club, Changwon must complete a new stadium with at least 25,000 seats by 2016.

In January, Changwon, about 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul, announced that the stadium will be built on the plot previously occupied by the Army College. There were three candidate sites for the stadium and critics argue that Changwon went with the least accessible location.

In April, the KBO demanded information from Changwon about its decision, but the city refused on the grounds that under its agreement with the Dinos, it must not share that information with a third party.

The KBO said on Thursday that the information may still be divulged with the Dinos' consent. The league office also noted that Changwon had already defended its selection by claiming it had undergone "scientific and objective" research, and revealing information about the city's research is unlikely to affect Changwon's future plans.

The KBO said it will ask Changwon to join the league for a new feasibility study on all three original candidate sites. The league said if Changwon refuses, it still will go ahead with the study.

Should the new study find the old Army College base unfit for the new ballpark, the KBO said it will ask Changwon to reconsider its choice. The KBO said it could strip Changwon of the baseball team if the city doesn't follow the league order.

Changwon is an amalgamation of three municipalities: Changwon, Jinhae and Masan. Jinhae and Masan are now districts within what is now one large city, with a population of 1.1 million.

Critics of Changwon's decision say that the move is connected to a tug-of-war between the old municipalities of Changwon and Masan over the locations for the new city hall and the provincial government office.

Integrated Changwon is still using the old Changwon municipality's city hall building. Critics argue that for the sake of balance, new Changwon will seek to open the new city hall in downtown Changwon and will relocate the provincial office from the old Changwon municipality to what used to be Masan. Old Jinhae will then get the new ball stadium as compensation, according to critics.

The KBO said it is prepared to take strong measures because building a new stadium at a viable location is important for the growth of professional baseball as a whole and it wants to ensure transparency in all administrative procedures.

"This isn't simply an issue with the NC Dinos; it's a critical matter for professional baseball," a KBO official said. "When the team was founded, Changwon had agreed to work with the Dinos over selecting the stadium site, but it went ahead and made a unilateral decision. If worse comes to worst, we will consider relocating (the Dinos)."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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