Japanese Baseball Tohoku Rakuten To Add On To Stadium In Time For Playoffs
Japanese professional baseball team Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles is increasing the capacity at its Nippon Paper Kleenex home stadium after winning the Pacific League on Sept. 26, the first championship for the nine-year-old franchise. The stadium in Sendai, built in '50, suffered serious flood damage in the March '11 tsunami, when waves reached five miles (8km) inland in the city. The current capacity of the stadium is 25,651, which will be raised to 26,965 in time for the Climax Series (playoffs), which begins Oct. 17. Further seating and a temporary standing-only section will be added for the start of the Japan Series on Oct. 26, taking capacity to 28,120.
ON THE RADIO: The team also launched a radio station on Oct. 3, the first from a Japanese pro sports franchise. Rakuten Eagles Radio will broadcast all of the remaining games of the regular season, playoffs and the Japan Series finals live via the California-headquartered tunein online platform. The Eagles, owned by online mall Rakuten, were formed in '04 when the merger of the Orix Blue Waves and Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes left the Pacific League with only five teams. The franchise has attracted passionate support across the Tohoku northeast region, which is struggling to recover from the '11 tsunami, with more than 160,000 people still in temporary housing. Its victory in the Pacific League has been hailed as a morale-booster for the region.
Gavin Blair is a writer in Tokyo.