B. League

Brave Thunders' plans for new arena undaunted by pandemic

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff writer

The Kawasaki Brave Thunders plan to build a new home arena capable of generating a more professional sports atmosphere.

Despite the negative economic impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Brave Thunders president Nobuo Motozawa said on Wednesday that the club is sticking to its original plans.

Motozawa said that the club is in the final phase of determining the location of the new home arena, which will have a capacity somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000.

On June 29, the Brave Thunders revealed that they had formalized a capital and business tie-up with NTT Docomo, Inc. Through that, the team will receive technological support from the mobile phone giant, as well as financial backing.

“To tell you the truth, we are going to work on details regarding the arena in our working group with NTT Docomo from now on,” Motozawa told reporters in a Zoom call after appearing in a webinar along with Yokohama DeNA BayStars president Shingo Okamura. “There aren’t any benchmark cases (for professional-level sports arenas) domestically, so we are going to have to go through a lot of trials and errors at Todoroki Arena (the club's current home) to see what our fans would want.”

Kawasaki has not announced a clear timetable on the completion of the new arena. But Motozawa said that it would open by the 2026-27 season, when the B. League is eyeing business expansions.

Motozawa said that the participation of NTT Docomo was reassuring for the club’s future projects, including the new arena.

“We can use a lot of the technological assets and resources that NTT Docomo has. They have a lot of statistical information,” said Motozawa, who previously served as the business operations director for the BayStars. “So they have information about what would excite customers, what fans spend, the consumption behaviors of people who are not yet basketball fans, and things like that.”

Motozawa added that the value of online technology would rise and remain important even after the current pandemic settles down, and that it would be key for the team to enrich the online viewing environment for the fans.

Hiroshi Baba, general manager of NTT Docomo's Sports and Entertainment Planning Office, said in a statement that the company would contribute to the business development of the Brave Thunders “with technology such as 5G and XR (cross reality), as well as cashless services.”

DeNA purchased the ownership of the Brave Thunders from Toshiba Corporation in 2017 and has developed the team into one of the B. League's most popular clubs since beginning operations in the 2018-19 season.

Kawasaki's average home attendance at Todoroki Arena has grown from 3,056 in 2017-18 to 4,737 in the shortened 2019-20 campaign.

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