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Past and Future for Busan

Last week it was announced that Busan would play their final* home game of the season at the old Gudeok Stadium instead of the Asiad. Why? Nostalgia perhaps? Probably not, in reality it's likely a simple marketing stunt in order to try and boost the normally anemic crowd. It also may be a small attempt at boosting the players' confidence. To play in the spiritual home of Busan football, a stadium where the team won titles and silverware. Will it work? We'll see, although at this point the result barely matters with the team already consigned to the relegation playoff. Busan will visit the Gudeok with one eye on the past, but also possibly one eye on the future.


I say one eye on the future as it was announced last year (or was it earlier this year?) that the city was interested in re-developing the Gudeok into a more modern football-specific stadium with a citizen's park next to it. Will it happen? I'm skeptical given the team's current plight and meager attendance draw, but you never know. Perhaps in a few years Busan will have a nice football-specific stadium to call home.

The Gudeok - A brief history

Located in Seodaesin 4-dong in Seo-gu, the Gudeok was build way back in 1928, and was simply known as the "Busan Public Athletics Stadium". It was nothing like the current Gudeok Stadium. One official who works at the stadium said, "It was just flat, bare ground where you could draw a line, and put a few humble stands. For people who have only seen today's stadiums, it's hard to imagine."

Supposedly the Gudeok Stadium back in the 1930/40's. I cannot see the original full blog post where it originated from, so cannot verify it.
The stadium became the central place for Busan sports and athletics; hosting numerous events and major competitions over the decades. The stadium underwent major renovations in 1973 in preparation for the National Sports Festival, and it hasn't changed much since. The name was officially changed to the Gudeok Stadium during the '80s when the athletic complex in Sajik-dong was built.

An football match at the Gudeok in the early '80s.
The stadium continued to be the home for the new K League team, then known as Daewoo Royals, until 2002 when they moved to the newly opened Asiad Main Stadium. These days the Gudeok's only residents are the 3rd division side, Busan Transportation Corporation FC.

Busan Transportation Corp. FC at the Gudeok. Photo courtesy of http://football.humetro.busan.kr


The future of the Gudeok?

A little while ago, the city released a rough idea and picture of how they'd like to renovate and modernize the Gudeok.


The concept sketch shows a smaller, modern football stadium with several sports courts for tennis, badminton, football, and so on next to it as well as a small walking/leisure park. The major changes are the re-design on the current stadium and the removal of the baseball stadium.

The current layout of the Gudeok Sports Complex courtesy of Google Maps.
The picture of the new stadium looks similar to the Pohang Steelyard in terms of the shape and design. I believe reports said that the new stadium would be a little smaller than that, possibly more in line with Changwon Football Center and seat closer to 15-20,000. It's difficult to say since it's just a drawing, but it looks like it would have just a single deck rather than two decks.

Good move or bad?

Would a renovation of the Gudeok and move back be a good move for Busan IPark and Busan football?

Facilities: Of course the proposed renovation of the Gudeok would be better than the Asiad. While the club made an effort to improve the experience at the Asiad by putting in two temporary stands for the bulk of the main stand and the "ultras", it remains an average/below average viewing experience. The stadium as a whole is far too big, and it is very difficult to create or maintain any atmosphere.

Winner: Gudeok

Location: 


The above image shows the general location of the Asiad and Gudeok stadiums. In logistical terms, the Asiad is probably in a better location. Busan is, broadly speaking, laid out in a large plus sign + kind of shape, from Sasang-gu in the west to Haeundae-gu in the east, and Seo-gu in the south to Dongnae-gu in the north. The subway and roads also roughly follow the same shape layout due to the mountains in the city. This is possibly the only real benefit for the Asiad. While it is not directly at the center of the city's layout (that would be near the 'n' in Busan on the above map), it is close. For those traveling by subway to the match it is faster and more convenient to get to the Asiad than the Gudeok. It is also probably more convenient for drivers as well since parking in the Seo-gu area is always a pain.

Winner: Asiad

Cost: There of course would be significant price tag on a renovation of the Gudeok. Both stadiums (football and baseball) would need to be torn down and the new stadium, facilities, and landscaping would need to be installed. I don't know how to ballpark a cost for that, but most of the newer stadiums in Korea seem to be around $100 million. The important note is that the stadium would, like the Asiad, be owned by the city and not the club. The city would of course want the club to help repay the cost of the renovation, and a significant usage/rental fee would probably be inserted. I'm not sure of how much the club is currently paying to use the Asiad, so it's difficult to make a comparison.

Winner: Asiad (but unsure due to lack of information)

Fan environment: Again the Gudeok would seem to be a clear winner here. Seats close to the pitch, both Busan and opposition fans behind the goals, a smaller, more closed-in environment to make some noise. Access to the stadium would also likely be much improved. Team merchandise, vendors, and such would be closer to the seats. The only downside would probably be parking.

Winner: Gudeok

Overall, I come to a score of 2-2. For fans the move would likely be a massive upgrade over the Asiad, but in terms of logistics and cost it makes more sense to stay at the Asiad. I think I've wished for it before, but rather than renovating the Gudeok, it would make more sense to renovate the Asiad. However, I can't see that happening as the city I'm sure would like to have a big stadium should it be needed.

While it's not necessarily a logical decision, the renovation and move to the Gudeok would be a great thing for fans and Busan football in general. The Asiad feels too cold and impersonal. It also feels very temporary, like a rental house or hotel. The history of the Gudeok gives it a proper home feel, and a place where future fans can support the team.

So, here's hoping the renovation happens and Busan IPark and Busan Transportation Corp. FC have a nice, new stadium to call home.

2 comments

  1. Solid breakdown of the pros and cons here. Even without fully renovating, I still think it'd be a better move. Put a roof over some of the existing stands to keep fans out of the weather and cost down and play in a more appropriately sized stadium. Asiad's just too much for the vast majority of K-League teams.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Stadium politics seem to be pretty crazy in Korea but can't complain about a proper football stadium in Busan finally. Could be another white elephant though if Busan can't get the crowds up. That must be the biggest concern for Busan they can barely get 5,000 to games.

    Incidentally, does the building of these soccer-specific stadia mean Korea has given up on hosting the WC again in the future as I presume they'd be too small to be used?

    Finally you can read my thoughts on both Busan grounds:

    https://the48club.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/matchday-39-gudeok-stadium/

    https://the48club.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/matchday-40-busan-asiad-stadium/

    ReplyDelete

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