By Kang Seung-wooTelecommunications giant KT has officially announced its plan to establish a 10th professional baseball club.The company signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Gyeonggi Province and Suwon City for mutual support in creating the new team Tuesday at the Gyeonggi Provincial Office in Suwon. KT Chairman Lee Suk-chae, Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo and Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young were present at the ceremony.KT plans to undertake the related tasks to found the baseball club including selecting players and coaching staff and building a practice facility when the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) gives the final nod. It intends to join the nation's second-tier league in 2014 and Korea's top flight in 2015.
|KT Chairman Lee Suk-chae, center, Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo, left, and Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young smile as they hold a memorandum of understanding after announcing a plan to create a 10th baseball at the Gyeonggi Provincial Government headquarters in Suwon, Tuesday. The proposal of a Suwon-based outfit needs to be approved by Korea Baseball Organization to proceed. / Yonhap|
For its part, the local government will remodel Suwon Baseball Stadium to seat 25,000 at an estimated cost of 20 billion won and lease the ballpark to KT for free for 25 years. The telecom company will have the naming rights to the stadium and will also be guaranteed revenue from advertising and concessions.
"We have decided to establish a club as baseball has cemented its status as the nation's No. 1 sport, accompanied by a strong thirst for a 10th team and active support from Gyeonggi Province and Suwon City," Lee said.
"KT has solely provided extensive broadcasting and multi-angle services in Korea, so we will try to contribute to Korean baseball growing more by introducing information and communication technology-combined baseball content and services."
Kim said the local government will give its full support to creating the new club.
"As the KBO is close to witnessing season attendance figures reach 10 million, it is meaningful for KT, Suwon City and Gyeonggi Province to work together to start a 10th franchise. We will dedicate ourselves to supporting the founding plan," Kim said.
It is the second time for the nation's No. 2 mobile carrier to be involved in the establishment of a baseball club.
In January 2008, the company withdrew its plans to start a baseball franchise after friction with other KBO clubs over location and league fees.
At that time, baseball's governing body announced that it had reached a tentative agreement with KT over the acquisition of the now-defunct Hyundai Unicorns, based in Suwon.
Under the agreement, KT was allowed to relocate the team to Seoul at the price of a 5.4 billion won franchise fee and use Mokdong Baseball Stadium as its home.
However, the decision drew resistance from other baseball clubs, particularly the Seoul-based Doosan Bears and LG Twins, and the KBO requested KT to up its franchise fee, with some of the clubs claiming that the company should pay up to 18.5 billion won, including the 13.1 billion won the league spent the previous season to keep the Unicorns afloat.
On the back of baseball's booming popularity, there have been growing calls for a 10th club but in June the KBO's board of directors agreed an additional team would lower the overall quality of the league as there are currently only 53 high school teams that train future players.