Hokkaido Shimbun has reported that the inevitable departure of the Japanese Professional Baseball (NPB) team the Nippon-Ham Fighters will result in baseball-related revenues at the Sapporo Dome going down by more than 50%, based on the estimate calculated by Sapporo Dome Co.,Ltd, the city-invested operator of the venue.

The Sapporo Dome is one of the largest multifunctional venues in Japan with a capacity of 53,845 (for concerts) and 41,484 (sporting events) respectively.

The annual turnover of the Sapporo Dome has been around JPY 4 billion (£29 million) for most of the past decade or so but the new report predicts the figure will be in the region of JPY 1.8 billion (£13 million) after the Fighters relocate to the nearby city of Kita Hiroshima in 2023.

The operator says they will ask the J-League Division 1 football club, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, to play more matches at the venue once the baseball team’s move away is completed but the Dome is still poised to lose heavily and a JPY 300 million (£2.17 million) deficit every year is predicted.

In FY2018, the Fighters played 62 games and paid between JPY 7.7 million (£55,800) and JPY 15.4 million (£111,620) per game to Sapporo Dome Co.,Ltd  as the gameday venue fee.

The operator also receives fees from all stadium advertisement sponsorship deals as well as F&B and merchandise sales, meaning that an annual income of approximately JPY 1.3 billion (£9.4 million) came directly from the baseball team alone. The operator predicts that they will lose around JPY 2 billion (£14.5 million) every year as the direct consequence of the Fighters not playing at the Dome.

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, on the other hand, played 13 of their home matches at the Sapporo Dome which also hosted concerts for 9 days in total last year. The operator revealed that, after the Fighters move out in 2023, they will ask the football team to play all of their home matches, and try to host more events including major concerts at the venue.

There is also a plan to introduce partitions to divide the indoor space to host smaller events with a reduced capacity of around 20,000. The operator recognises, however, that they will eventually have to come up with new ideas to generate their own revenue streams when life after baseball begins.

In an interview conducted by the local newspaper, Hiroyuki Yamakawa, the president of Sapporo Dome Co.,Ltd said:

“We would love to host more concerts, more than 10 days in total every year but to be honest, not many artists can attract 50,000 people to fill the Dome these days so we are looking at dividing the space with partitions to offer a reduced capacity of 20,000 instead. 2021 will see the 20th anniversary of the Sapporo Dome so hopefully we can host some major events that way. We will also look into the possibility of hosting more of our own events including rugby matches and other sports as well as exhibitions,” he said.

“For the proposed Dome use with a reduced capacity, a different fee structure will need to be introduced so we will have to ask the City of Sapporo to amend the regulations accordingly.”

Sapporo Dome Co.,Ltd claims their new businesses will provide an additional revenue of around JPY 300 million (£2.17 million) every year but even that will not be enough for the venue to break even with the aforementioned annual deficit of JPY 300 million (£2.17 million) also predicted. The operator, which currently has 72 employees – 1.8 times more than the 40 employees they had back in 2003 – will review the remuneration packages and ask for the City to support the venue financially, according the newspaper.

Yamakawa added that the operator has not given up the hope of hosting some of the Fighters matches even after the team moves to their new home in Kita Hiroshima, saying: “The Fighters still play some games at the Tokyo Dome, their previous home, so we are still hopeful that they could come back and use the Sapporo Dome for some of their home games even after 2023. Also, we will ask NPB’s Central League teams to come and play here if/when their respective home ballparks are not available for some reason.

“Having said that, we fully understand that the Fighters would prefer to welcome their fans to their new ballpark, and the fact that the Fighters still reserve all the exclusive hosting rights as Hokkaido’s sole NPB franchise means we will need them to agree on any of the Central League teams hosting games inside Hokkaido so it may be difficult.”

Images: Yumemi.K & Monmon

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