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'Field of Dreams' ready for Okinawa action

Date Posted: 2010-04-09

The strains of ‘Take me out to the ballgame’ are only days away from being sung at the new Okinawa Cellular Stadium Naha at Naha City’s Onoyama Park.

Officially, the first games in the new, state-of-the-art stadium will be played April 16th ~ 18th, when the Yomiuri Giants’ Eastern League farm club engages in pro-am Challenge Match, hosting the industrial league Okinawa Power & Electric Company team on the 16th. On both the 17th and 18th, the Giants’ second squad will play the Western League’s Hanshin Tigers farm club.

The stadium is being called magnificent by those who attended the grand opening ceremonies Saturday. Naming rights went to Okinawa Cellular Co., which paid ¥20 million for the sponsorship honors on a two-year contract. The 30,000-seat stadium cost ¥6.8 billion to build. Construction began in 2007 on the Onoyama Park grounds in the heart of downtown Naha City, near the Naha International Airport. Seating is inset into the ground to bring some seats very close to the action. It favors the handicapped, with ramps and elevators, plus 15 special spaces for wheelchairs.

The stadium’s roof covers much of the seating area, providing protection against inclement weather. Underground, there is a special rain water tank to recycle water. The home run dimensions at Onoyama Stadium are the standard 328 feet (100 meters) down the left- and right-field foul lines, and 400 feet (122 meters) to straightaway center field. Seating is equal on both sides of the stadium, and the playing surface is traditional old-fashioned dirt-skin infield and natural grass in the outfield.

Professional action that counts begins June 29th and 30th as the Yokohama BayStars and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows take the field, the first official NPB games played in Okinawa since 1975. Starting in 2011, the Yomiuri Giants will take most of their spring training at Okinawa Cellular Stadium Naha, with the possibility the Kyojin will also play regular games in Okinawa next year. The National High School Baseball Tournament’s cheerleaders will also check the new stadium in coming months, too.

The new Okinawa stadium follows a trend for construction of professional stadiums in communities without professional ball teams, some of them seemingly in the middle of nowhere in the middle of residential neighborhoods or rice paddies. New stadiums include Alpen Stadium in Toyama, Muscat Stadium in Kurashiki, Botchan Stadium in Matsuyama, Big N Stadium in Nagasaki, Sun Marine Stadium in Miyazaki, Nagano Olympic Stadium and Komachi Stadium in Akita.

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