Okinawa to Host a Different Sort of Competition

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Updated: March 23, 2016

Shiba Taguchi, Ryukyu Sports News

Naha, OkinawaJune 3, 2023: On Friday Naha mayor Yogi Keiji and Shisa club president Hatsuo Ko announced at a press conference that the city and the team had reached an agreement regarding the sale of a large parcel of land within Naha’s Onoyama Park. The sale, described by Keiji as actually “a series of transactions,” is conditional and requires the team and its corporate parent to clear a number of hurdles to complete the deal. Foremost among these hurdles is the club’s commitment to, and securing financing for, the construction of a new baseball stadium on that property.

The land, on the east side of Onoyama Park on the west bank of the Manko estuary, currently contains an outdoor track, a baseball/softball field, soccer field, and a youth hostel. In all, the parcel encompasses about 18 acres. Ko described the location as “highly desirable,” accessible by two monorail stations (Tsubogawa station on the other side of Manko to the east, and Onoyama Koen station to the south), and National Route 331 to the north. Given the size of the site in question, Keiji said that there was “a very good chance” that the new stadium, tentatively named Shisa Stadium II, would be “noticeably larger” than the club’s current facility on the west side of the park.

View of Onoyama Park from the east, proposed site of new baseball stadium. Pedestrian bridge crossing the Manko Estuary in the foreground.  Current stadium in background. 

Financing for construction of a new stadium, according to Ko, is still being negotiated, however, he noted that the team’s financial situation is strong and that the club would have funds lined up to keep the project on schedule. “This has been a years-long process,” said Ko, “and all our bases have been covered.” Current public financial disclosures show that the Shisa currently have a little over $25M (roughly ¥2.85B) in cash on hand, with an additional capital construction reserve of $40M (¥4.58B), and are on track to turn a profit of between $6M (¥676M) and $12M (¥1.35B). Other costs not directly related to stadium construction will be covered by the Shisa’s corporate parent, Seigyoki Kabushiki Gaisha.

As part of the arrangements with the city, Seigyoki Kabushiki Gaisha has agreed to build a new indoor, multi-sport facility on the site of the current Shisa Stadium (which property will revert back to the city once the Shisa play their last home game of 2024) to serve area youth and could play host to larger regional or even national competitions. This facility is intended to replace, and be an improvement upon, those athletic facilities lost to new stadium construction. The tentative completion date for that project is the spring of 2026. 

Seigyoki Kabushiki Gaisha has also agreed to finance the construction of a new youth hostel on the south side of Onoyama Park. Ko said that the new hostel will be identical to the existing structure that will have to be demolished in order to make way for a new stadium’s outfield bleachers. He expected this project to be completed roughly a year from now.

Ko also announced that an international design competition would be employed to select a plan for the new stadium, and that the stated budget for the new stadium complex is ¥8.37B. He noted that all submissions will be judged by a panel that includes club executives, city officials, and members of the community. The deadline for submissions will be August 15, with a winner to be announced on August 29. The overall winner will receive priority in discussions over the project’s design and build contract. A second place prize of ¥5,000,000, and third place prize worth ¥3,000,000 will also be awarded.

When asked about guidelines for architects, Ko said the new stadium would be expected to “match or exceed the best attributes of venues that have come before it, with respect to both scale and aesthetics. The Shisa are ambitious, and intend to build a world-class facility that will match the distinction and character of the city that they call home.” When asked if there were any particular design elements the team was looking for, Ko said that the new stadium would likely have a retractable roof, noting that the Shisa were interested in hosting a variety of events, in addition to baseball games, in their new facility.

Ko noted that the team has, since joining the PEBA, looked at ways that it could better put itself in a position to compete at the highest level of global baseball competition. The club has reached out beyond Okinawa, and even beyond Japan’s borders to try and develop its fan base and expand its market. Ko mentioned the sponsorship of Shisa fan clubs not just in nearby cities like Taipei, Shanghai, and Busan, but in more distant cities in the pacific rim such as Sydney, Honolulu, and Seattle. The construction of a new stadium, he noted, is of a piece with this effort. “This development will not only bring a new level of enthusiasm to the existing fanbase,” said Ko, “but will make Naha a more attractive destination for baseball fans across the sea as well.” Of course, a larger stadium could greatly enhance the revenue potential of the team as well.

Reaction from Shisa fans in Naha has been predictably enthusiastic. “With so much upheaval in Japanese baseball in the recent past, this commitment to the community is most welcome,” said Haruki Yamashiro, a Shisa fan in attendance. “Of course, nothing generates good will so much as winning,” he added. For the Shisa (25-32 so far this season), building a new stadium may be the next best thing. 

Tentative Shisa Stadium II Project Schedule:

June 3, 2023 – Design Proposals Accepted

June 12, 2023 – Groundbreaking on New Youth Hostel Site

August 15, 2023 – Deadline for Design Proposals

August 29, 2023 – Winner of Design Competition Announced

October 10, 2023 – Groundbreaking on New Stadium Site

October 23, 2023 – Heavy Equipment Begins Excavation at Stadium Site

December 2023- Steel Erection Commences, Beginning on Southwest Corner

January 2024 – Demolition of Old Youth Hostel

April 2024 – Installation of Treads and Risers at New Stadium Begins

May 2024 – Roof Truss Installation Begins

June 2024 – Construction of New Youth Hostel Completed

July 2024 – Storm and Sanitary Sewer Installation Completed

November 2024 – Demolition of Old Shisa Stadium Begins

February 2025 – Construction of Shisa Stadium II Completed