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Official Review by Eric Bynum, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Lotte Giants might be the most popular baseball team in South Korea. Despite only having won the Korean Series twice (1984 and 1992), their fans are widely known as the wildest fans in the KBO. They started playing at Sajik Stadium, known as the Mecca for Korean baseball, in 1986.
They play in the extremely popular KBO which has only eight teams total (expanding to nine in 2013). Games can end in a tie after 12 innings, and every Monday is an off day in the league that continues to grow in popularity on the peninsula.
The Giants play in Sajik Stadium in Busan which holds about 28,500 passionate fans. The stadium was opened in 1985 and play began the following year.
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".
It's hard to not love the food at Korean stadiums because you can bring anything you want into the park. Located around the stadium hours before game time are loads of vendors selling different foods. You can easily find fried chicken, pizza, and all sorts of snacks from chips to grilled squid.
The food from the vendors is generally pretty good and very cheap making it a great deal to pick something up outside the park before heading in. Besides the usual chicken and pizza, you will also find traditional Korean foods like gimbap, mandu, sausage on a stick, ramyeon, and the ever popular ddeokbokki.
If you like to have a few beers during the game, there is no worry. You can pick up a single for around 2,000 won (less than $2) from the vendors or inside as well. The vendors inside and out will also sell water, Gatorade, Pocari Sweat, and soda for around $1-3.
If you want something more Western, across the street from the stadium is a McDonalds and a Pizza Hut. Located at the stadium on the outside is a Lotteria which sells burgers and chicken as well. And if you need to get a caffeine fix, there is an Angel-in-us café (popular coffee shop in Korea) located at the stadium near the museum and team shop.
The atmosphere is almost always great at games in Korea. Fans are wildly passionate about their home town teams, and you will usually find that the visiting team's fans will travel well making games a lot of fun to attend.
There are several traditional pastimes at Giants games that are a lot of fun to take part in. One is the making of newspaper pom-poms. You will see some of these made during the game by fans old and young. Near the end of the game is the most unique thing I have ever seen in Korea. Orange plastic bags will be passed around and placed upon the fans heads. It works as some sort of rally hat, and it's a lot of fun to see most everyone in the stadium wearing a plastic bag on their head.
Sajik Stadium sits in the sports complex of Busan that houses the soccer stadium among other sports venues. Across the street from the stadium is a nice group of restaurants (Korean and Western) along with plenty of places to have an after the game drink. Nearby is a Home Plus (similar to Wal-Mart) so just about anything you need can be found close by.
The Lotte Giants have the wildest fans in the league. It doesn't matter if they are in first place or last, their rowdy fans will show up in force to cheer on their beloved Giants. When the place is full, which it often is, it can be rocking with chants and cheers from the home crowd.
Fans of the opposing team usually travel well, but they are often overshadowed by the hordes of Giants fans that show up on a nightly basis. The home team fans at Sajik Stadium might be the loudest in Korea. They love their thundersticks (long plastic balloons used as noise makers), and they use them often to cheer on their team.
The stadium is located a short walk from the Busan subway system. Take line 3 to Sajik Station and take exit 1 or get off at Sports Complex Station and take exit 9. If you want to head to Home Plus before the game, get off at Sports Complex and you will walk by it on the way to the stadium. There are plenty of buses that will take you to the stadium as well (10-1, 12, 19, 44, 50, 57, 80-1, 111-2, 131, 189-1 or 1002).
Access around the stadium can be a little trickier however. When purchasing a ticket you are allowed access to only a certain part of the stadium generally. However, prior to the game, I was able to walk around almost the entire stadium to take photos. There are ushers at each entrance to check tickets though and during the game they seem to enforce it a little more.
There are plenty of restrooms around the stadium and even when the stadium is full there is usually only a short line at most.
This is one of the best ticket values in sports. You get to visit a nice stadium (not MLB quality but nice by KBO standards). You will experience some of the most passionate baseball fans of anywhere in the world and that alone is worth the price of admission.
The greatness of the baseball cheerleaders, the rabid fans, the thundersticks, and the chanting and cheering all combine for a great night of entertainment. Opt for a general admission ticket instead of the more expensive seats behind the plate for a genuine exciting time with some great fans.
For those who like photography, you will be frustrated by the netting down the lines that get in the way of what could be some great action shots. However, the views from the top of the stadium behind the plate are some of the best in Korea. Beyond the field are lush green mountains that make for some great photographs.
You might have a hard time getting a ticket if you show up at game time as games can and do sell out here especially on weekends. Lines will start forming 3 hours before first pitch and by the 2 hour mark they will start to get long.
There aren't a lot of extras at Korean baseball games, but Sajik Stadium has a few. There is a museum at the stadium that shows what the locker rooms, bullpen, and other parts of the stadium look like. You can take your photo at the different spots. I was able to just walk right into the museum and look around during my last time at the stadium.
The museum is also connected to the Lotte Giants store which is one of the best in Korea. Here you can find hats, jerseys, and all the knick knacks you want.
I love visiting Sajik Stadium. It is always a great time with their great fans. The Giants might not be the perennial title holders, but their fans are some of the best I have ever seen. It's easily one of the best sports venues in Korea. So grab some friends and some fried squid from a vendor and head on in to a game. You won't be disappointed with Sajik Stadium.
Follow all of Eric's journeys at Baseball Journeyman.
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