Friday, March 30, 2012
MLB eyes London Olympic stadium
ROME -- Major League Baseball officials have been watching with envy for years as the NBA, NFL and NHL played games in Europe. Now, stadiums in London and the Netherlands could provide the chance for baseball to follow suit.
The biggest obstacle for MLB in Europe has been to find a facility with the right dimensions and seating capacity, and London's Olympic Stadium is under consideration.
"That (London) stadium, the way it's built, actually is big enough for a baseball game," Clive Russell of MLB International told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "It's not perfect, but it has some real potential."
West Ham football club is among the bidders vying to take over the stadium after the Olympics, and Russell said that MLB is also talking to the games' legacy committee.
The London stadium will seat 80,000 spectators for the Olympics. After the games, it will be downsized to a 60,000-capacity multipurpose venue, including for track and field.
Russell said MLB has measured the London stadium.
"It's tight and there would be some struggles with sight-lines," he said.
Another option is a new $20 million stadium being built near Schipol airport in the Netherlands, which will have 3,000 permanent seats but room for temporary seating of 25,000. It's due to open in early 2014.
"So right now they're the front-runners," Russell said while attending the presentation of the Italian baseball season. "If you build it we will come."
MLB is also excited over the recently unveiled plans for a new worldwide qualifying tournament for the World Baseball Classic.
In September and November, 16 nations will compete in four different pools for the right to compete in the 2013 Classic.
"The biggest single thing that we've done is add a qualifying round for the World Baseball Classic," Russell said.
Teams that finished 0-2 in 2009's Classic face an extra qualifying round, which will begin in Regensburg, Germany, Sept. 20-24 with Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany and Britain competing. Then France, Israel, South Africa and Spain will meet in Jupiter, Florida.
The third pool in Taipei, Taiwan, will feature Taiwan, New Zealand, the Philippines and Thailand. Qualifying will conclude with Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama playing in Panama City.
The winners of the four groups will each advance to the Classic in March 2013.