I've always liked stadiums. Even despite the fact there has always been the distinction between the 'cheap seats' and the not so cheap and that in some modern arenas you have to pay a small fortune to get in, I have always find there is something egalitarian about them. Once everyone is in, you're all a -insert team name here- fan, you all want one thing and you all get behind -insert team name here- together. Aesthetically aswell, I just enjoy seeing a full stadium.
I'm also often depressed by stadiums, solely down to the fact that the team I support, Brighton and Hove Albion are still without a permanent home after more than 10 years of waiting.
Sadly another venue I have become attached to won't be lasting much longer as Hiroshima Carp's home, Shimin Kyujo, will be torn down at the end of this season and the Carp move across town to their new stadium.
Now, I'm not going to pretend to be a big baseball fan. I'm not. I have however, grown quite fond of the Carp, and the stadium has played it's own part in that.
For one thing, it's the atmosphere. Loud and passionate, it doesn't matter that the Carp are generally pretty shite, whenever I have been there the fans have been great. And it truly is for everyone. There's none of the overwhleming presence of men as in sporting venues in the UK. The whole family can go. And not in that horribly patronising way some places try and fit families in, much to the chagrin of the 'fellas'. That's just how it is. You can take your 3 year old kid and no one will mind if they climb over the seats. When I went last week there was a family of 3 generations sat infront of me with a small baby. It's the norm rather than the exception and the passion is not diluted for it.
Even after 5 years or so here I still am unsure on all the rules and I doubt I will ever develope a real affinity for the sport but I would definitely call myself a Carp fan. When I first got to Japan I thought I should atleast give Baseball a look in. I decided that I should obviously be a Carp fan, but how else could I try and involve myself in this game I was initially finding pretty dull. The key to my first stirrings for Yakkyu was infact coming across the Yomiuri Giants. The equation that lead to the result of me being able to get into my first Baseball games was quite simple;
Hiroshima Carp = My team + Yomiuri Giants = Manchester United = COME ON CARP!
Instant hatred, rivalry on tap. The underdogs versus the fat cats from Tokyo. Something I could understand and cling to like a, er, favourite hated teddy?
Anyway, the seeds had been sewn and since then I have always looked out for Carp results, stopped to watch when I see them on telly, and sometimes been to see at their home...
Which will very soon be no more. This is incredibly sad. It's always sad when a team leaves an old home but this is Hiroshima. The Carp's stadium is directly across the street from the A-Bomb dome. I doubt there are many other places in the world that have two such contrasting images of their city so close together. I hesitate to use the word beautiful, but on a warm evening, when the floodlights are lit, and people are streaming into the stadium, with the ruins of the dome in the foreground....it is some sight. One I never fail to appreciate. In the space of a few hundred metres you have the best and saddest of the city. It will be such a shame to lose it.
All is not lost though. You could never hope to better the location, significance and atmospere of the current stadium but, the new one doesn't look too bad at all. It is a proper stadium as opposed to one of those horrible dome things. More importantly though, unlike a lot of new stadiums that get built in the UK, this one is still in the centre of town. Not quite the centre like the old one, but next to Hiroshima station. They won't be any long out of town bus rides like there is if you want to go and see San Frecce play virtually out in the mountains and it's not, thank god, being built in some out of town 'development'. Infact, it's going to be easier to get to for a lot of people in Hiroshima Ken. It's never going to match it's predecessor for me, but it looks like it will stay very much a part of Hiroshima and is very much, in Hiroshima. It could of been a lot worse.
So what will go up on the old site? I am past caring really as I'm resigned to it falling way short of Shimin Kyujo and as long as it is at least architecturally interesting and not a shopping centre, it will have to do. For some reason City Officials seem to be ignoring my idea of building a stunning new stadium there for San Frecce. Hiroshima's two sporting representatives right in the middle of the town. Would be fantastic.
Why does nobody ever listen to me?