Baseball in Taiwan scored a home run yesterday when the Taipei City Government said it would allow some professional games to be played at Tienmu Stadium. \nA city council statement said that after several meetings between the council and Tienmu residents a compromise had been reached. \nIt was agreed that professional baseball clubs could "officially use the public property for the leisure activitives and benefit of the whole public." \nProfessional teams had been banned from the showcase arena because of residents' concerns -- principally over noise, trash and traffic generated by fans at matches. \nThe 6,000-seat Tienmu Stadium was built at a cost of US$14 million in 1999, but has been largely unused since then. \nBronze medal \nEven so, the capacity of the stadium was increased to 10,000 last year in order to host the Baseball World Cup in November. \nThe tournament -- at which Taiwan picked up the bronze medal -- proved to be an enormous success, leading to calls for the stadium to be used for professional games as well. \nBaseball team and league owners argued that Taipei needed a dedicated baseball field to follow up on the success of the World Cup. \nThey said it made no sense to build a stadium with taxpayers' money and then not use it. \nThe situation was exacerbated when the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association announced that two professional baseball teams from Japan, the Daiei Hawks and Orix Bluewaves, would play a series of regular-season games on May 14 and May 15. \n`International' \nBaseball officials seized the moment, with Hung Jui-ho (洪瑞河), the general manager of the Brother Elephants saying it would be unfair to let Japan's professional baseball teams play at the stadium, but not local baseball clubs. \n"Maybe we should all go and register our clubs in the Cayman Islands so that we can call ourselves `international' and then hold games in Tienmu Stadium," he said. \nBut residents near the stadium have been steadfast in their opposition to the use of the stadium for professional games. \nThey argued that matches would cause traffic snarl-ups, lead to littering problems and too much noise. \nThey also pointed out the original planning permission for the stadium was for community use, not professional use. \nOne resident, who preferred not to be named, said the World Cup had been a nightmare for people who lived near the ground. "It was like hell," she said, but added, "If they do decide to open up the stadium for [professional] games then we will just have to live with it." \nPouring oil \nThe city council decision is an attempt to placate the opposition groups and assurances have been given that disruption caused by games will be minimized. \nEnvironmental impact rules imposed by the city include guidance on noise control. \nOrganizations using the stadium must sign a contract with the city government and put down a NT$500,000 deposit before they can use the facility.Parking has been improved and shuttle buses between Chishan MRT station and Tienmu Stadium will be available. \nVolunteer police will also be on hand to help with traffic control and other related problems. \nThe Tienmu Baseball Stadium Control Committee has also been set up to oversee the use of the stadium. \nThis body is composed of five district leaders, five residents' representatives and five scholars, the city council said. \nAccording to the city hall's statement, gas horns will be banned and as a further inducement for residents, they will get a 20 percent discount to attend games. \nA Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) spokesman said that, "We will be working very closely with the control committee and city government to follow all the rules and sincerely invite all residents to come along." \nAs a result of the agreement the stadium will host 12 professional games this season, which are: Five games each for the two professional baseball leagues (the Taiwan Major League and the rival CPBL), plus the two Japanese games. \nThis Sunday, there will be a community game, between Yanmingshan district and Shechih Island (near Shihlin), at 4.30pm, at which Mayor Ma will throw the first ceremonial pitch. \nOn May 11, 6.30pm the first professional game at Tienmu Stadium will go ahead, with the Brother Elephants and ChinaTrust Whales facing off. \nOn May 14 and 15 the Daiei Hawks and Orix Bluewaves from Japan will play at Tienmu, which will be the first time Japanese league teams have ever played outside Japan.
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