Posted by simon c on 2009 May 3日 Sunday
Seibu Lions’ Porcelain and Plastic Memorial to Matsuzaka: Plush Bathrooms
By DAVID WALDSTEIN
Published: May 2, 2009
SAITAMA, Japan — The departure of Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2007 was a momentous and sad time in the proud history of the Seibu Lions, as their prized pitcher of eight years left for glory and riches in Boston. To soothe the pain, the Lions began an ambitious project that would eventually warm the hearts of their disappointed fans, not to mention another part of their anatomy.
With the $51,111,111.11 posting fee the Lions earned from the Red Sox in the deal, they renovated the drab, outdated Seibu Dome, constructing concession stands and seating, resurfacing the playing field, installing an enormous video scoreboard and, most notably, building magnificent bathrooms with electronically warmed toilet seats.
While the Red Sox went straight to the penthouse with Matsuzaka, winning the World Series in his rookie year, Lions fans got the outhouse. But based on the new amenities, it has been a rather equitable exchange.
“Daisuke made such a great contribution to the team for 10 years, so these are kind of his memorial places,” said Masanori Takahashi, the senior director of business operations for the Lions.
Some of the game’s greats have been honored with plaques in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. Others have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and a rare few have statues in their likenesses erected in front of stadiums, or even rotundas built in their memory. For Matsuzaka, the great honor is warm and soothing toilets, which is no small gesture here.
“In Japanese custom, it is very important, the toilets,” Takahashi said during a recent tour of the stadium, which opened in 1979. “If you are comfortable in the toilets, then everything is comfortable.”
Whereas the old facilities were dingy concrete latrines, state-of-the-art urinals line the men’s rooms along with high-tech hand dryers built into the bright blue and white tile — the team colors. But the main attractions are the new toilets with TotTo’s Warmlet seats in stalls with floor-to-ceiling doors.
Each stall in the women’s bathrooms holds a Toto Washlet, a toilet and bidet in one unit. These $1,500 fixtures provide a luxurious experience for fans, who may spend their time in the restrooms contemplating the full extent of Matsuzaka’s legacy with the Lions.
“It looked like a women’s room in a nice hotel with the vanities and sinks,” said Tere Garcia-Pena, visiting from Manhattan with her husband, Miguel. “It was just so nice and clean, I felt like I just wanted to keep going in there.”
Takahashi, who studied English in Philadelphia and used to visit Veterans Stadium, said most of the money the Lions received from the Red Sox in January 2007 was used for the renovations the last two seasons.
Forty percent — more than $20 million — went to taxes. Of the rest, $25 million paid for stadium upgrades and $5 million was used to sign players who helped the Lions win the 2008 Japan Series.
Two seasons ago, the Lions spent some Matsuzaka money on the country’s widest video scoreboard, almost 165 feet across (and 23 feet high), bursting with high-definition color that seems three-dimensional. The team also built a new outfield fence, laid a fresh carpet of fake grass on the field, updated the players’ lounges, added seats in foul territory, and gave away uniforms and gloves to children.
The Lions refurbished the bathrooms at the top of the stands, which until this season were the only ones available to a vast majority of fans. After the first rehabilitation project, fans still had to trudge up 52 rows (an exhausting journey even for well-conditioned athletes who make the same trek to the players’ exit after games), then wait an average of five minutes.
That situation certainly did not entice fans to buy more food and drinks at the concession stands. Now, with the addition of two men’s and two women’s bathrooms in the 34,000-seat stadium, the Lions say the waiting time is down to two to three minutes, and it is worth the wait.
“If the bathrooms are nice and convenient, then you do not hesitate to buy another cup of beer,” Takahashi said.
After the initial investment, the Lions then took the rest of the posting proceeds and during the 2008 season began construction on two sections of premium seating and midlevel concession stands — one on each side of the diamond — all part of what the Lions call the Plus Alpha Experience.
Each section has a new concession stand, a cafeteria-style restaurant, picnic-area box seats and more premium bathrooms, meaning fans no longer have to scale Mount Fuji-esque heights and spend two innings doing it.
Although the Red Sox may be enjoying the benefits of Matsuzaka’s pitching, their fans at venerable Fenway Park still often wait in excruciatingly long lines to use cramped and ancient facilities. Meanwhile, Lions fans casually reap the rewards of Matsuzaka’s previous success in warmth and cleanliness.
“The Dice-K posting was kind of a turning point for the team,” Takahashi said.
“Everything is changed. This used to be the worst stadium in Japan. Now the team is younger with new players, the stadium is getting better, and I think we have the most beautiful bathrooms in all of Japanese baseball.”