Design & Development

Fighters’ intimate ballpark goal creates challenge

Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) club Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters has said it is addressing concerns that its new stadium currently does not meet field of play rules, as the venue nears completion.

ES CON Field Hokkaido, first revealed in November 2018, is set to open in March and last week held a media day for local journalists to sample the progress made to date. The 35,000-seat stadium is now said to be at 95% completion, but reports yesterday (Tuesday) stated new concerns have been raised.

Part of the field at Es Con Field Hokkaido fails to meet the standard set out by the official baseball rules in Japan, according to the Mainichi Shimbun, citing sources familiar with the matter. Under the official baseball rules, it is stipulated that 60 feet is required from the home plate to the backstop, and from the base lines to the fences, stands or other obstacles in the foul territory.

However, the new stadium currently does not fulfil the criteria, with this issue said to have been raised at a meeting of the NPB executive council on Monday. The proximity of the stands to the field, which is made up of natural grass, is one of the selling points of the new stadium and the Fighters have said they are looking into the issue.

“We’re in talks with various parties, and cannot let the details be known,” the Fighters added.

The stadium is fitted with a retractable roof, while another of its hallmark features are bullpens near the right and left wing poles, both visible from the stands. The stadium has an array of other features, including Tower 11 on the left wing, which includes a hot spring and hotel, as well as a children’s playground on the right wing and a brewery restaurant in the centre.

The Fighters’ ownership group, NH Foods, in September announced it would issue the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Bonds, a sustainability bond aimed at private investors raising finance for the ballpark construction.

The stadium will sit within the ‘F Village’ community space and mixed-use development. The Fighters yesterday announced a new addition in the form of the Hokkaido Ballpark F Village Adventure Park.

Scheduled to open in June, the Park will feature an aerial athletic course with giant swings and ziplines. The Fighters said in a statement: “In addition to the elements of hands-on activities in nature that Hokkaido boasts, the facility will also function as a place for education. 

“Challenge experiences created by athletics are combined with educational programs such as team building to create opportunities for children to grow naturally through play. Utilising the know-how of EX Communications, which operates an aerial athletic business nationwide, including Hakuba Village in Nagano Prefecture, the diverse content of F Village will also be promoted for educational trips and corporate training.”