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Official Review by Kirsten Richards, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The NC Dinos are an expansion team that joined the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) in 2013.
Masan Stadium was used as a second home for the Lotte Giants from 1982-2011 and is now the exclusive home of the NC Dinos.
The NC Dinos do things a little differently than other teams in the league and their stadium and practices are really family-friendly. Like all baseball stadiums in Korea, fans are noisy and exuberant and the atmosphere is excellent.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The offerings at Masan Stadium are unusual and include rice hamburgers and fries topped with just about anything you can think of. Prices for bacon and chili topped fries are around W7000 (about $7 US), but there is more than enough for two people. Standard Korean concessions are also available, along with the inevitable coffee shops. Light Korean lagers are available at corner-store prices (around W2000/can) along with sodas, water, and packaged snacks.
As with the other KBO stadiums, you can bring in anything you like and bags are not checked. It is very common for people to bring a full picnic to the stadium and Masan Stadium has several areas that are set up specifically to encourage picnicking.
Mid-week lines at the stands are short and move very quickly.
Masan Stadium is part of a sports complex. Slightly confusing, the cash ticket office is actually attached to the soccer stadium rather than the baseball stadium, but it is easily visible from the baseball stadium and the NC Dinos staff are very friendly and helpful in directing you to the right place.
Across the road from the main entry to the baseball stadium is a small restaurant/café/bar neighborhood with a great selection of Korean street food to snack on before and after the game.
Cheering platforms are located in the right field bleachers, the first base side, and the third base side.
Unusually, during weeknight games the main cheering platform is the one in the right field bleachers, which adds an interesting dimension to the game - and for the crowd, it means the people willing to get to the game first to secure their seats get the benefit of being in the cheering section, rather than needing to book those seats in advance. This is great for a visitor, as pre-booking tickets for NC Dinos is as challenging as for the other teams.
The NC Dinos take the first base side dugout and the visiting team takes the third base side. Fans arrange themselves to be behind their teams and cheer exuberantly for their teams. At Masan stadium you do not have to balance the excitement of being in the cheering section with having enough space for your knees. There is plenty of room between the seats and no need to fear your cup or can being knocked out of the cup holder as people go by. Taking a seat in the cheering section is an absolute recommendation for Masan Stadium.
Table seating takes up all of the infield and is necessary if you want a close up view of the game. There is also a series of wooden platforms between the table seating and the cheering platform on the first base side that is a designated family picnic zone and a fantastic choice if you have your own folding chairs, etc.
There are some notable differences in the way the NC Dinos present themselves and the fan culture they are creating. Stand out differences are the choice of a single dinosaur head noisemaker instead of the traditional double cylinder and the cheerleaders consistently wearing more clothes than most other teams. The team music is also a little less pop and a little more rock than other stadiums.
Between inning entertainment includes a lot of fan interaction via the scoreboard screen. Favorites include the 'strongman' competition, dance-offs, beer races, and kiss cam. Strongman is a big crowd favorite and usually includes lots of fathers using their kids as barbells.
The concourse around the field side of the stadium is fairly narrow, but the stadium is designed so that most movement around the stadium will be done on the outside concourses. The more expensive seating areas are blocked off by staff and gates.
The non-field side concourse at Masan Stadium is a little awkward, with a wall dividing an outer and inner ring. Concessions are mostly located on the outer ring of the concourse, but the snack shop is located on the inner ring of the concourse with the bathrooms. It squeezes both concourses more than is required.
Your view in the infield can be hindered by thicker than normal netting poles, which also have the WiFi boxes and loudspeakers attached to them. Before the game, fans hang out near the wall in the bleacher section trying to catch batting practice balls and get autographs from players.
From the outfield, there are lovely views of the hills behind the city.
Masan Stadium is part of the unified Changwon city, but is geographically distinct from both Changwon and Jinhae, that make up the other two parts of unified Changwon city. Masan itself is a lovely modern city, with plenty of creekside trails, beautiful gardens, a large free-trade zone and a well-utilised share-bike system.
Interestingly for history buffs, it was the launch point for Kublai Khan's attempt to conquer Japan in 1274.
Directly across from the stadium is a compact restaurant and bar/cafe area with plenty of food options from late afternoon onwards. There are a large number of love motels of varying quality and a quite nice Savoy Hotel within easy walking distance of the stadium.
Also within an easy walk is a large HomePlus with all of the food and shopping options that implies.
Cold noodles are a nice way to finish off the evening and there is a cheap and friendly noodle joint between the stadium and the HomePlus.
On the other side of the stadium is a dense residential area with lots of high rise apartments and plenty of shops and services underneath.
Within walking distance of the stadium is a lovely mountain trail which has gorgeous views over Masan harbor, plus there are plenty of flat walking trails alongside the small rivers that run through the city.
Fans at the Dinos games take a little while to warm up, but once in full cry they are as loud as any fans in the competition. The cheerleaders orchestrate cheering in blocks around the stadium and fans take it up whole-heartedly.
Fans are friendly, cheerful and welcoming to strangers.
Fans are also not shy to give their opinion about the umpire's calls.
Masan essentially functions as a neighbourhood of Changwon and both are easily accessible by bus from Busan and Gimhae international airport. The bus ride from Busan's Sasang bus station to Masan is about 45 minutes and costs around W2000.
Changwon, including Masan Stadium, is a smaller city and has no subway. There are plenty of bus routes that go past the stadium and the stadium itself is a short walk from one of the inter-city bus terminals. Bus prices within the city are W1200 per ride.
Within the stadium, there is a nice wheelchair section - games are free if you bring your own wheelchair, but accompanying friends/family need to pay.
The field side concourse is quite narrow and the outer concourse is strangely divided into an inner and outer section. This makes it a little harder to find particular concession stands and the bathrooms, but does not notably take away from the enjoyment of the game.
The stadium is also partitioned into the infield, outfield and bleachers, with no easy way to walk around the entire concourse.
The bathrooms are small and clean. There is no queue during the week.
There is a reasonably large parking lot associated with the sports complex.
The NC Dinos offer a really nice evening out with some unusual food options.
More expensive seats in this stadium are not necessarily the most fun and this is one stadium where outfield seating is comfortable, cheap and has dedicated cheering.
An evening out at Masan stadium is well worth the investment of time and energy to get there.
For drivers, there is definitely the option of staying in Busan and coming out to Masan for a day trip.
The fans in Masan are exceptionally friendly and welcoming and the city as a whole has a very peaceful and relaxed feel to it.
The cheerleaders do a fantastic job of getting the crowd involved without an uncomfortable amount of titillation.
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