Thu, May 02, 2002 - Page 16 News List

Tienmu gets to play ball

GO AHEAD Three years after it was first built, Tienmu's baseball stadium will host domestic matches after the city council said professional teams could use the facility

By Jules Quartly  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

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.

A city council statement said that after several meetings between the council and Tienmu residents a compromise had been reached.

It was agreed that professional baseball clubs could "officially use the public property for the leisure activitives and benefit of the whole public."

Professional teams had been banned from the showcase arena because of residents' concerns -- principally over noise, trash and traffic generated by fans at matches.

The 6,000-seat Tienmu Stadium was built at a cost of US$14 million in 1999, but has been largely unused since then.

Bronze medal

Even so, the capacity of the stadium was increased to 10,000 last year in order to host the Baseball World Cup in November.

The 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.

Baseball team and league owners argued that Taipei needed a dedicated baseball field to follow up on the success of the World Cup.

They said it made no sense to build a stadium with taxpayers' money and then not use it.

The 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.

`International'

Baseball 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.

"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.

But residents near the stadium have been steadfast in their opposition to the use of the stadium for professional games.

They argued that matches would cause traffic snarl-ups, lead to littering problems and too much noise.

They also pointed out the original planning permission for the stadium was for community use, not professional use.

One 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."

Pouring oil

The city council decision is an attempt to placate the opposition groups and assurances have been given that disruption caused by games will be minimized.

Environmental impact rules imposed by the city include guidance on noise control.

Organizations 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.

Volunteer police will also be on hand to help with traffic control and other related problems.

The Tienmu Baseball Stadium Control Committee has also been set up to oversee the use of the stadium.

This body is composed of five district leaders, five residents' representatives and five scholars, the city council said.

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