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Official Review by Kirsten Richards, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Champions Field is a brand new stadium that was completed in less than 2 years. It is very clean and features a lovely grassed picnic area in the outfield. It is open to the city in a way that none of the other stadiums are in the KBO. There are sightlines into the stadium from the nearby streets and nearly any seat in the stadium will give you a view out to different parts of the city. Unlike other stadiums in the KBO, there is no seated general admission area .
It has already been the site of a few national and international news-making incidents. Within the first couple of months of the stadium opening, it had been accidentally set on fire by a spectator grilling octopus. In the same week, a fan jumped the fence from the first base ‘exciting zone’ and attacked the first base umpire.
The Kia Tigers (originally Haitai Tigers) are the most successful team in the league. The team formerly played at Mudeung Stadium. They have won the Championship 10 times since 1982.
Champions Field can feel very empty when less than half-full, which has been more often than the team would prefer. Despite Kia’s history of winning, the last few seasons have been pretty dismal and crowd numbers reflect that. The small crowd is still very loud and enthusiastic and cheers hard, but this is definitely a stadium where it is essential to get a seat near the cheer section to have a traditional Korean baseball experience.
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The stadium is reminiscent of an MLB stadium in so many ways that I was expecting a similarly wide variety of food and perhaps even some specialties. However, there is nothing of that sort on offer.
Fried chicken, pizza, and corner-store style offerings are available, along with traditional Korean snacks. All are at reasonable prices - beer is around 2,000 Won, fried chicken around 8,000-20,000 Won depending on your order.
As with all other stadiums in South Korea, you are welcome to bring in anything you might want to drink or eat with no issues with security. There is not a lot around the stadium either and a smaller number of street vendors than expected, so planning food in advance might be necessary if you want something other than fried chicken during the game.
Without a doubt, Champions Field is the most inviting stadium in the KBO.
The outfield is fenced from the street with open metal fencing and surrounded by gardens. There are multiple spots for passers-by to lurk by the fencing and catch a peek at the game. There is also a small amphitheater built on top of one of the underground car parks that provides a view into the stadium through a gap in the garden. A big effort has been made to integrate Champions Field into the city and provide a taste of the place without needing to buy a ticket. Security guards are posted to stop people from the climbing into the stadium.
The Kia fans are excellent and cheer very strongly for their team. Given the space at Champions Field and the comparatively small crowds, it is important to be near the cheering area if you want the sort of experience you would expect from Korean baseball at the game. Infield tickets are very affordable at this stadium if you want a close-up view of the game.
The stadium is clearly brand new and squeaky clean. The bathrooms are also new and clean, and there are plenty for a crowd of under 10,000. The number of bathrooms could be an issue if and when the stadium is at full capacity.
The pitch in the infield areas is very gentle and even, which can make visibility a bit of an issue if umbrellas are opened to protect people from rain or sun. There are a wide variety of seating options - from club rooms / sky boxes, to traditional picnic tables in left field to sitting on grass or built-in benches in the outfield.
Wheelchair seating is integrated into the concourse, but most other lower-level seating has neither shade nor protection from the rain.
The foul area between the dugouts on the first and third baselines is unusually large, with a wide-grassed area big enough for several pairs of players to play catch. This space narrows to a more traditional size as it moves towards the outfield.
There is nothing particularly of note near the stadium. There are no bars or cafes within walking distance. There is a 7-11 across the road.
The stadium is set in a crook of one of the rivers that run through Gwangju. There is a very pleasant river walk through most of the city that you can access from the stadium.
Province is the agricultural heartland of South Korea and food here is excellent and a little cheaper than the rest of Korea. Tteok Galbi street is dedicated to tteok galbi, which is rib meat minced and shaped into patties. The street is near a large Chinese 5-day market (open on days ending in 3 or 8) accessible from Songjeong-ri subway station.
Geumnamno is the large pedestrian downtown area full of art galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs. Overall, Gwangju is a very likeable city.
Kia Tigers fans cheer hard for their team and keep going through minor inconveniences like extended rain delays and being 8 runs behind in the 7th.
Fans here are very welcoming to strangers and it is a delight to spend time at Kia Stadium as a visitor.
Inside the stadium, access issues have clearly been considered as part of the planning process. The concourse is wide and smooth, with plenty of room and elevators are easy to find and clearly marked. Seats are also very easy to find and space between the rows is comfortable for those under 6 feet tall.
There are a large number of buses that run next to the stadium. From the main intercity bus terminal, catch the 16, 38 or 151. From the main train station, take the 27, 89, 98 or 151.
The stadium is less than a kilometer from the train station and can easily be reached by walking in about 15 minutes - simply turn right onto the main road as you exit the station and keep going. The stadium will be on your left and is unmissable.
From the main intercity bus terminal, it's about 1.3km - turn right as you leave the terminal, then left at the big intersection with four traffic islands and walk about 1km up the road. The stadium is visible nearly the whole time and you can walk a small section on the river path.
The subway does not currently connect to the stadium.
Taxis in Gwangju are plentiful and cheap and it is about 2,500 Won from the stadium to the main train station.
Gwangju has two KTX stations and can easily be reached from Seoul (3 hours), Daejeon (1hr 45 minutes - not the main Daejeon station) or 4 hours by bus to/from Busan.
Tickets for Kia Tigers are cheap and plentiful. Champions Field can definitely feel a little empty and lonely, but you can pre-empt that by ensuring that you get seats in the cheering section.
Champions Field really is unique in Korean baseball. It is a very modern ballpark.
The easy-going feel of the place is only enhanced by the excellent variety of seating options, including many that are very suitable for families with small children.
The staff in the merchandise shop are extremely friendly and helpful.
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