Venue Expert Believes MLB Should Build Stadiums Internationally


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Major League Baseball’s second foray to England over the weekend proved to be a success with large crowds during a two-game series between the Chicago and St. Louis Cardinals at London Stadium.

The first game on Saturday drew 54,662 and attendance was 55,565 for Sunday’s finale. That made for a two-day total of 110,227.

While it was 8,491 less than attended the two-game series in 2019 when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox played in MLB’s European debut, it is instructive to note that London Stadium’s capacity for baseball was smaller this time because of a new seating configuration.

The two games also drew larger crowds than any MLB game in the United States this season, though Dodger Stadium has the largest capacity with 56,000 seats.

Another MLB series is scheduled in London for next season as the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies will meet on June 8-9. As part of the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and its players, the rank and file gave approval for games to be played in Paris in 2025, though particulars for that series have yet to be finalized, though the Yankees have expressed interest.

The Cubs and Cardinals split their two games with Chicago winning 9-1 on Saturday and St. Louis bouncing back for a 7-5 victory on Sunday.

“Hopefully we inspire some kids to go out there buy a glove, buy a bat and go in the backyard and play a little bit,” Cardinals right fielder Lars Nootbaar told reporters following the second game.

Growing the game in other markets is part of MLB’s long-term strategy as it has also played regular-season games in Japan, Australia and Mexico over the years. The league would also like to stage games in other venues in Europe besides France with Germany, Italy and The Netherlands as possibilities. A foray to the Middle East is possible at some point.

However, none of those European counties have stadiums dedicated to baseball that are large enough to host MLB games. The same holds true with nations in the Middle East.

Even when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers played in Australia to open the 2014 season, MLB had to convert the Sydney Cricket Ground into a baseball configuration despite similarities in the two sports.

Alexey Milovanov is a global executive who specializes in delivering stadiums and temporary infrastructure for some of the world’s largest sporting events. He is best known for leading the building of seven new stadiums for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia as the chief executive officer of sport engineering, and the overlay for official sites for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as the technical services director.

Milovanov is also a baseball fan and believes MLB must invest in infrastructure globally if it is to grow the game worldwide.

“We know that one of the MLB’s priorities at the moment is global expansion,” Milovanov said in an email exchange. “This is the right target, and there is a huge amount of potential in growing baseball internationally. There is no reason that baseball shouldn’t be a truly global game that is followed fanatically around the world.

“The economic benefits would be enormous, not only for the MLB but for all stakeholders in the baseball ecosystem, including teams and broadcasters. The merchandising potential alone could be a multi-billion-dollar opportunity. At a global level, this opportunity is really untapped at the moment.”

One of the biggest questions surrounding the idea of MLB building stadiums abroad is just how much usage the facilities would get beyond perhaps two big-league games a year. However, Milovanov believes there are ways MLB could maximize any potential investment.

“Use of the stadiums would need to go beyond just hosting the odd international MLB rival game, and the stadiums would also need to be seen as a strategic base for popularizing the sport internationally,” Milovanov wrote. “On one hand, this would give the MLB the opportunity to expand the MLB World Tour franchise, so that more games could be played internationally in more locations in purpose-built facilities that don’t compromise the spectator and fan experience. It’s important that these stadiums should be the host to genuinely high-profile games that can help popularize the sport.

“It could also provide a base for supporting the growth of local teams in the region. These new stadiums could act as the ‘home ground’ for tens of different teams across the region, as the MLB focuses on introducing and growing the sport at grassroots in new countries.”

The biggest question of all is financing.

Unlike the NFL, for example, MLB has never gotten into the business of having to fund stadiums, leaving that up to new ballparks. It also seems that MLB would be unlikely to foot the bill for ballparks in foreign countries when most of the stadiums in the United States have been built with substantial public funding.

Milovanov believes MLB might face fewer financial hurdles in the international market.

“It might be an uphill battle to get public funding in Europe, but it might be easier to go down that route in the Middle East, where the immediate opportunity could be bigger,” he wrote. “At the moment, there are a number of countries in the Middle East, such as the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, that are allocating huge amounts of public investment in next-generation, truly world-class sporting infrastructure. Just look at the scale and ambition of investment that Qatar allocated to the World Cup, with nearly 1.5 million people visiting Qatar in a month for the games. The Middle East is allocating the type of money required to become the global growth hub for sports.

“That said, in Europe, there are early signs that public and private sector investors may actually be more willing to support baseball projects than you first might think. You can also be savvy about construction itself. Although these new stadiums should be built with baseball specifically in mind, in the design phase, you could ensure that they can be easily leveraged for other types of events: not just for other sports, but for music, concerts, and other types of entertainment too. This was foremost in my mind when I was driving the construction of stadiums for the World Cups in 2018 and 2022.”

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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