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Official Review by Kirsten Richards, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Cricket is still a relatively new and unknown sport in Korea. Yeonhui Cricket Ground was built especially for the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and is Korea’s first dedicated cricket ground.
The Korea Cricket Association was admitted to the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2001. The national cricket team competed internationally in 2002. Their second international appearance in the 2011 East Asia-Pacific Division 2 competition in Samoa saw them score a win against Tonga, which opened the door to recognition by the Korea Sportsmen Association as a Junior Sports Organisation, which provided opportunities for funding that had previously been unavailable.
Only one player from the 2011 team was still playing in 2013, when open tryouts were held to put a new Korean National Cricket Team together. It is largely composed of college students and contains four former professional baseball players. Almost none of them had previous experience playing cricket.
Yeonhui Cricket Ground is very, very new and shiny and was mostly empty for most of the 2014 Asian Games competition – the notable exception being the gold-medal match between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, which saw a full-capacity crowd.
Most of the time, a visit to Yeonhui Cricket Ground is likely to be a very laid back and quiet affair. The grandstands are very well laid out with plenty of room between the seats, a very comfortable pitch and wonderfully noisy aluminium bleacher flooring to express your support.
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".
There is space at the ground for a snack shop near the Gate 4 entry. However, it is only likely to be open for large tournament events. I highly recommend bringing your own snacks and drinks to the ground. Security was relatively tight during the 2014 Asian Games, but the metal scanners looked very temporary.
Yeonhui Cricket Ground is part of the main athletics stadium complex for the Incheon Asian Games and set in lovely parkland. In the open space areas between the athletics stadium and the cricket ground are beautiful tree-lined avenues, gardens, plenty of kids playground equipment and many sets of free exercise equipment for adults.
From the main public grandstand there are very nice views of the apartment complexes of the athletes' village and the Asian Games torch.
Depending on the game you see, it is likely to be a much quieter experience than attending baseball or soccer in Korea.
Movement around the stadium is fairly easy, but there is no way around the sight-screens at either end of the field. You will need to leave the stadium and walk around the outside to make a complete circuit of the stands.
The clubhouse/media/VIP building is brand new and entirely enclosed in glass. It is surprisingly unobtrusive for a large squared-off building. The fencing between the playing field and the concourse is very cute, hip-high white picket fencing.
Gate 1 leads to the main public grandstand which is nicely square to the wicket and provides a great view of batter position relative to the creases. There is no protection from the sun and you will absolutely need a hat and/or sunglasses to comfortably watch the action from these seats. There are also stands at Gate 4 and Gate 3, which provide more of a quarter-view to the field. There are a number of areas under shade structures that are reserved for VIPs, First Aid or snack shop. It is possible that these areas might be available at times outside the Asian Games. The sun is very strong in the open seating - a hat or parasol could be very useful.
There are two scoreboards in the stadium, one directly across from the main grandstand and one close to the sight screen opposite the main end of the ground. Both are large, clear and easy to read, even in bright sunlight.
The small size of the stadium, the closeness of the seating to the playing field and the relative obscurity of cricket in Korea means that you are much closer to the action than in many other stadiums. Watching one game at Yeonhui I saw major international cricket stars coming up to the concourse to check in on the crowd to make sure people were OK, players passing fruit and water into the crowd and nearly every single player giving every single fan a high-five before they left the field.
There is a small area to the east of the cricket ground that has pizza shops, snack stalls and other small restaurants. Exploring the Main Athletics Stadium and Grounds is also well worthwhile, with a number of constructed fountains, sneak peaks into the main stadium and what will likely be a well-utilised training track all easily accessible, along with the aforementioned playground and fitness equipment scattered through the parkland.
Apart from the athletic stadium complex, the more lively part of Yeonhui-dong is only a short bus or taxi ride away. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and motels there, including a 24-hour soondubu restaurant which will provide you with a huge amount of food for only 7000 won.
Cricket knowledge is not high in Korea, but there are a large number of ex-pats from cricketing countries who are more than willing to share their enthusiasm for the game.
Yeonhui Cricket Ground and the Asian Games main athletics stadium are not easily accessible by subway. The two nearest stations are Jakjeon on the Incheon line and Geomam Station on the Airport line. The best stop is definitely Geomam Station, as buses running out to the stadium are relatively easy to find. You may wish to take a taxi from either station. Taxi fares are negotiated directly with the driver.
The stadium itself has areas marked for wheelchairs at ground level, which may make it a little tricky to see the action. The concourse itself is certainly wide enough for the capacity of the stadium, but does not take into account the likelihood of being taken over by a celebratory mob, should, for example, the Sri Lankan cricket team win a gold medal.
Steps are shallow and easy to navigate. People in your row can get past without too much squeezing and every seat is a good seat. It is a nicely designed stadium.
Entry to the cricket is free, even for the Asian games and bringing your own food and drink is highly recommended. If and when cricket is happening at this ground, it is well worth dropping in and catching a game.
Yeonhui Cricket Ground is very, very new. The aluminium in the stands is still shiny, the seats still smell like new plastic, the white shade structures are still blindingly white. Combined with the picket fencing, it almost feels like the dream of a cricket stadium - nothing smells like stale beer and old sweat.
Unsurprisingly, the toilets are immaculate.
There are four cricket nets outside Gate 2.
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