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Sunday, May 6, 2012


NPB clubs getting innovative to boost weeknight crowds

Orange uniform jerseys, half-price beer and opening the roof of a retractable domed stadium are some of the ideas to be carried out by Japanese ballclubs during the upcoming interleague season which begins on May 16, and ends June 17.

Rescheduling of rained-out games may extend the Central vs. Pacific League battle through June 21, and the promotions will be implemented in an effort to bring bigger crowds to some of the lower-draw games on weeknights.

The Yomiuri Giants wore the bright orange-colored jerseys during their Tokyo Dome game against the Hanshin Tigers as Golden Week began on April 29, before a crowd of 45,164. They proved to be lucky as the Giants won 2-0.

The Kyojin did not need an attendance booster for such a high-profile, sold-out game which has been described as similar to "The Boston Red Sox playing the New York Yankees on the Fourth of July." However, the Giants used that opportunity to showcase the spiffy and cool-looking jerseys for an upcoming series against the Orix Buffaloes. The move has apparently paid off.

Yomiuri will open interleague play at home with night games on May 16-17, against the Buffs. Normally, this would be a card on nights when Tokyo Dome attendance would fall below the 40,000 mark; perhaps to as low as 35,000. This year will be different.

As of May 2, the advance sale ticket window board at Tokyo Dome indicated both games are near-sellouts with only a limited number of the highest priced "S" tickets and seats in the visiting team's cheering section still available. They may also be gone by now.

Ticket sales have been brisk, not only because Yomiuri fans want to see the Giants win again in the orange shirts, but also because each ticket-holder entering the ballpark is to be given a replica of the jersey as a gift. The idea is for the spectators to show them off and make the Big Egg look like the Big Orange.

The plan is to be repeated after the Giants get back to playing other Central League teams. The shirts will be worn by the players and the replicas given away to the fans again during a game against the Hiroshima Carp at Tokyo Dome on July 12.

Meanwhile, tickets are also selling well for another normally lower attendance night on June 11, a Monday, when the Giants will play the Chiba Lotte Marines. That will be the first of two nights when beer will be sold at the Tokyo Dome for ¥400 a cup. The normal fee for a brewski there is ¥800.

Another Half-Price Beer Night will take place on July 25, when the Yokohama BayStars visit.

No question the discounted beer will bring in more fans to the Giants games, and the beer girls in the stands with the tanks on their backs will be busy. Hopefully, the crowd will not get too tanked.

The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks have also announced —weather permitting — the retractable roof of their home Yahoo Dome will be opened for games against the Carp on May 22-23. The lid has been lifted infrequently since the stadium was opened in 1993, mostly because of swirling winds coming off Hakata Bay adjacent to the ballpark.

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