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Baseball: Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' flash new home stadium unveiled to media

Es Con Field Hokkaido, the new home of the Nippon Ham Fighters from the 2023 season, is seen in the city of Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido, on Nov. 3, 2022. (Mainichi/Takumi Taniguchi)

KITAHIROSHIMA, Hokkaido -- The new home stadium of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters professional baseball team was unveiled to the media in this northern Japan city on Nov. 3, with 95% of the structure completed.

    Dubbed Es Con Field Hokkaido, the ballpark with estimated 100-meter wings and a 120-meter center field features three-story stands with a capacity of 35,000 people.

    Ready to host the Fighters from next season, the stadium's proximity to the field -- carpeted already with natural grass -- will allow spectators to watch games up close. Another hallmark are bullpens near the right and left wing poles, both visible from the stands.

    Aligning the bleachers are a variety of facilities, including Tower 11 on the left wing, where visitors can soak in a hot spring and stay at a hotel, as well as a children's playground on the right wing and a brewery restaurant in the center.

    A giant mural facing an aisle at Es Con Field Hokkaido portrays former Nippon Ham Fighters star players Shohei Ohtani, right, and Yu Darvish, who both wore jersey number 11, in this photo taken in the Hokkaido city of Kitahiroshima on Nov. 3, 2022. (Mainichi/Takumi Taniguchi)

    Looking down on the field, the contrast of green natural grass and brown artificial soil is reminiscent of typical American ballparks.

    Though it is not easy to maintain natural grass in a roofed stadium -- albeit retractable -- amid Hokkaido's severe winter, the operator managed to complete grass installation in early October. Workers are set to apply the finishing touches to the interior ahead of the March 2023 opening of the season.

    Yuya Taniguchi, a former Nippon Ham Fighters member who is now in charge of public relations at the new stadium's operating company, commented, "I'm simply awestruck at the sight of the ballpark. I wish I could have played here. I'm jealous of active players."

    (Japanese original by Takumi Taniguchi, Hokkaido News Department)

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