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KBO demands Changwon to select new stadium location for expansion team

All Headlines 14:14 September 24, 2013

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Yonhap) -- The nation's top baseball league said on Tuesday it will formally demand the home city of an expansion ball club to choose a more viable site to build a new stadium, citing lack of transparency in the original selection.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) urged the city of Changwon in South Gyeongsang Province to choose a new location for a new ballpark for the NC Dinos. The league and the city have long been at odds over Changwon's controversial choice made earlier.

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.

At a press conference, Yang Hae-young, KBO's secretary general, said the league's own study showed Changwon's pick was flawed.

"We discovered serious problems with feasibility, fairness and credibility in Changwon's process of selecting the old Army College base," Yang said. "After KBO's own study, we concluded that the new stadium should instead be constructed in a different location, and we will formally ask Changwon to make the necessary change."

Earlier this year, the KBO asked Changwon to disclose information regarding the city's decision, so that the league could conduct its own evaluation.

According to Yang, Changwon commissioned an agency not related to sports to carry out feasibility studies on candidate cites and claimed that the city has been "changing its words about supporting the baseball club."

The secretary general also hinted that the Dinos could be relocated.

"If Changwon doesn't heed our request, then we will have to respect the Dinos' stance," Yang said. "We will try to make a decision that will help both the Dinos and the league, and Changwon will be seriously mistaken if it feels that the Dinos are safe in their hands."

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.

In response to KBO's demand, officials behind the stadium construction said nearly 1.7 billion won (US$1.6 million) has already gone into the construction project, and the plan must not be altered at this point.

Lee Tae-il, president of the Dinos, said he expected "a more positive response" from the city.

"If the location doesn't change, then we will try to reach an appropriate conclusion with the KBO and other clubs," Lee added.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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