Posted : 2013-01-08 16:25
Updated : 2013-01-08 16:25

KT, Booyoung vying to own new team

KT Chairman Lee Suk-chae, second from left, and Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young, left, pose before submitting an application at the headquarters of the Korea Baseball Organization Monday to create a 10th club in the Korean league. / Yonhap

By Jung Min-ho

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is expected to decide Friday whether telecom titan KT or housing giant Booyoung will be granted the operating rights for the nation's 10th professional team.

The two conglomerates announced their bids Monday and an evaluation committee of about 20 outside experts will review the applications, looking at about 30 categories including their financial stability. A decision is expected at a board of directors' meeting on Friday.

KT has formed a partnership with Suwon to create a team whereas Booyoung is looking to form a club based in North Jeolla Province and is backing plans by Jeonju, Iksan, Gunsan and Wanju.

This comes on the heels of the KBO's board of directors' unanimous decision on Dec. 11 to expand the league from nine to 10 clubs by the 2015 season.

While KT is trying to promote Suwon's marketability, Booyoung is highlighting the need to decentralize the nation's most popular sport, which already has four teams in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province.

Lee Joong-keun, center, chairman of Booyoung Group and North Jeolla Province Governor Kim Wan-joo, right, pose before submitting an application at the headquarters of the Korea Baseball Organization Monday to create a 10th club in the Korean league. / Yonhap

"In terms of population size and accessibility to public transportation, Suwon definitely has an edge over the cities in North Jeolla Province," KT public relations manager Kim Dong-woo said. "The city alone has 1.15 million residents. Considering about 5.7 million people live within one hour of the Suwon Baseball Stadium, it's hard to deny that Suwon will sell more tickets if selected." According to Statistics Korea, the total population of North Jeolla Province was less than 1.8 million in 2010.

Kim also noted that KT is more experienced in operating sports outfits having backed basketball clubs to golf teams.

"Over 30 years, KT has sponsored unpopular sports such as shooting and hockey. We also have supported the national football team for the past 12 years," KT Chairman Lee Suk-chae said Monday at the KBO headquarters. "With ample experience, we know how hard the operation will be and how to cope with it."

Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young also visited the KBO headquarters to explain why the city is the best candidate, saying he wants to build up Suwon as a "sports mecca."

"The city has a plethora of football fans following the Suwon Bluewings. It also has about 400 baseball clubs of nearly 10,000 people. Besides, more than 90 percent of the residents want to host the new baseball team," Yeom said. "Every time the Bluewings have a match against rivals FC Seoul, our football stadium is packed. That shows the citizens' passion for sports."

Meanwhile, Booyoung Chairman Lee Joong-keun said his company will build a new 25,000-capacity baseball stadium in Jeonju if the Jeolla bid is selected, pledging it will continuously cooperate with the residents for sports development in the region.

"Under the theme baseball is the national sport everyone can enjoy, we see hosting the new team in North Jeolla Province as a necessary step for the sport's bigger success in the future," said a Booyoung public relations official, who refused to be named. "It will expand the fan base to different areas away from Seoul and Gyeonggi Province. I have no doubt that North Jeolla Province residents' passion for hosting the new team is no less than those of the rival region."

In addition, population size shouldn't be the only measure for market success because the new team in North Jeolla Province will likely bring many fans to the stadium since interesting matchups will be created against teams from North and South Gyeongsang Provinces, the official noted.

Citing the St. Louis Cardinals' success despite a population disadvantage, North Jeolla Province Governor Kim Wan-ju said the region is ahead of Suwon in appropriateness and possibility of commercial success.

"We are planning on constructing a dream stadium. We are confident in making a better one," Kim said. "As there is a real passion for baseball in areas like Gunsan, I think our region is better in terms of marketability."

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