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Beijing's Basketball Team Upgrades to Wukesong

Economic Observer Online
March 29, 2012
By Zhu Chong (朱冲)
Translated by Song Chunling
Original article:

The Beijing men's basketball team is moving their home base from the remote Shougang Basketball Center to the Olympic basketball stadium at Wukesong, which is now known as the Mastercard Center.

Beijing has operated as the political, economic and cultural center of the country for hundreds of years, but the city has rarely led the way in sports.

It took the city's football team (Beijing Guo'an) many years to win the premiership, and doubts still surround the way they actually managed to claim the title in 2009, with some suspecting that it may have been arranged.

It's a big shift for the Beijing Ducks, the former stadium could only seat about 2,000 fans whereas Wukesong has a capacity of 18,000.

The income earned at the gate from tickets sold at the first three games at the Wukesong staduim is more than the total income earned from 20 games at Shougang.

The formed Shougang stadium had other draw backs too - with few public transportation links and a lack of parking options, basketball fans had to fight for "black taxis" after the game.

Catering was also poor, with no food allowed inside the stadium and no drinks being sold. It was a common site to see thousands of basketball fans crowd into the Japanese fast food restaurant on the first floor before and after games.

It was also common for spectators at Shougang to smoke as they watched the games too, leaving those sitting in the upper seats to try make out the action through the haze.

The Wukesong sports center is a complete change. As the first basketball center of the NBA standard in China, Wukesong has hosted both Olympic and NBA teams and boasts top-grade facilities.

Fans can enjoy convenient public transportation, comfortable seats, a wide choice of restaurants and direct elevators.

However, such a luxurious center doesn't come cheap.

It seems that only when the Beijing team made the finals of the local competition were they sure they had the ability to attract enough people to fill such a large stadium.

Zhu Jun, an investor in Shanghai's football club, once alleged, Beijing Guo'an was only "made" the champions of the domestic football league in 2009, so that they would have the opportunity to move their home pitch to the Bird's Nest Stadium after the Olympics.

In the end, negotiations broke down and the Beijing team are still based at the Gongti Stadium near one of the city's most popular night life districts.

Although things didn't work out for the capital's football team, the local basketball team has stepped up and met their Olympic aspirations.



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