National

Livedoor emerges as early fan favorite to own new team

Kyodo

Many people in the Tohoku region would prefer Livedoor Co. over Rakuten Inc. in their ongoing competition to base a new professional ball club in Miyagi Stadium, according to a survey.

But more than half of the 300 people polled by Kyodo News said they do not have a preference as long as a new baseball club is established in the northern Honshu region, which currently does not have any.

The two Internet service firms are vying for approval to use the stadium pending approval by Nippon Professional Baseball, the sport’s governing body, to create a new Pacific League team.

Kyodo News polled 50 people each in the six Tohoku prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata and Fukushima by telephone over three days to Friday, during which both companies’ presidents visited the region to build support for their plans.

Forty percent of the respondents said they support Livedoor’s bid — far outnumbering the 7 percent backing the bid by Rakuten.

The remaining respondents said they do not care which of the two wins the bid as long as creation of a new team leads to reinvigorating the local community.

Eighty-nine percent of those polled said they want a new team established in Sendai, and more than 60 percent replied that they would go to the stadium to see the games.

Rakuten and Livedoor have said they want to join the pro baseball business amid concerns that a merger between the Pacific League’s Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes will hurt the sport’s popularity.

The merger — widely opposed by players and fans — sparked last month’s strike by baseball players, the first ever in the 70-year history of the sport in Japan.

Livedoor applied to Nippon Professional Baseball on Sept. 16 for approval of its plan, and Rakuten followed Sept. 24. A subpanel will screen their bids by the end of October, and a final decision is scheduled to be endorsed by a Nov. 2 conference of club owners.

Livedoor President Takafumi Horie and Rakuten President Hiroshi Mikitani have visited the Tohoku region for meetings with governors and local business leaders to solicit support for their bids.

Of the people who expressed preference for Livedoor, 78 percent said it’s because the firm was the first one to choose Sendai as the home for the planned new team. Some supporters of Rakuten’s bid said the company appears to be more stable in terms of management.

Earlier, the Miyagi Prefectural Government said nearly 90 percent of the people who stated their opinions on the matter at its Web site said they support Livedoor’s bid.

Economic benefits

SENDAI (Kyodo) The Sendai Municipal Government estimates that a new professional baseball team would provide the regional economy with an annual boost of 12 billion yen, city officials said Saturday.

It based the projection on the scenario that either Livedoor Co. or Rakuten Inc. will base a new ball club at Miyagi Stadium in Sendai.

The 12 billion yen figure — expected to be generated by demand for goods and services related to the new team — is based on the assumption that an average of 18,000 fans will watch each game at the stadium and that the new team and other teams from the Central and Pacific leagues will play a total of 65 games a year there, the officials said.

Ticket sales alone should bring in 2.7 billion yen, they said. It estimates that the main economic benefits — coming from fans’ transportation, food and beverage expenses, as well as sales of baseball-related goods and other relevant items — would total 7.8 billion yen.

Wages for stadium workers and job creation would likely provide more economic benefits, bringing the total figure to 12 billion yen, they said.