This time in Ballparks around the world I will pay attention to the newest ballpark in the Netherlands. Newest but also most controversial. The ETO ballpark in Hoofddorp, home of the Hoofddorp Pioniers and host to the 2016 European Championship.
In 2014 the ETO ballpark was opened and in the inaugural year the stadium hosted one of the two preliminary rounds of the European Champions Cup. Everyone was lyrical about the new ballpark. A state of the art facility, small scaled but with the possiblity to expand the seating with aluminum bleachers.
The ballpark was created to lure MLB games to the Netherlands. Former general manager of the KNBSB (Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Federation), Robert Eenhoorn, was trying to lure those games to the Netherlands. But to be able to do so, the Netherlands needed a ballpark built to MLB standards. The muninicipality of Haarlemmermeer, where Hoofddorp is located started to lobby for this new ballpark. Especially the alderman of Sports Michel Bezuijen. Due to shrewd financial moves and reports he managed to convince the city council of Haarlemmermeer to build the stadium. He claimed that MLB had said “if you build it, it will come”, referring to the MLB games that would be played in Hoofddorp. But now it has become clear that MLB never made any promise.
After the construction of the stadium was finished, it became clear that the alderman had used money that wasn’t meant to be used for the construction of the ballpark. Next to that, the budget was exceeded by a whopping €860,000. The total cost of the ballpark (only the construction) was €12.3 million, not much to American standards but still quite an amount for a Dutch town.
But it did not stop with the costs of the construction. To convince MLB to play the games in Hoofddorp, the field had to be MLB worthy. So three tons of special clay was shipped to Hoofddorp. The maintenance of the field could only be done by a special crew with an MLB groundsman in the lead. This guy was flown in twice a year for the whopping amount of €100,000. But since this year, the city council has decided to scale down the field to European standards, which means that no MLB games can/will be played there anymore, unless some upgrades will be done. If this is the reason is not clear, but MLB is mulling to let two teams play in London instead of Hoofddorp. Still strange when you know that (except for the field) there is an MLB worthy facility in Hoofddorp. In London they have to recreate things.
But let’s focus on the ballpark itself now.
So the ballpark was built to host MLB games. This means that the facility itself needed to be MLB proof. First of all, the locker rooms. It is very unusual in Dutch baseball that every player has its own locker. Normally there are a couple of benches with a couple of hooks to hang your clothes on. In the case of this ballpark, the locker rooms were created like MLB locker rooms with a separate room for the manager of the team.
Next to the locker rooms there is a fitness room where the players can lift weights and use other fitness equipment.
The playing field used to be made according to MLB standards with a special kind of dirt/clay.
To make it possible to house large stands next to the grandstand there is a lot of room that surrounds the playing field. The space is big enough to build stands that can contain about 30,000 fans. The stands are close to the field which creates an intimate atmosphere.
Compared to regular Dutch dugouts, the ones at the ETO ballpark are huge, also made according to MLB standards.
The stands have a wide concourse which allows you to walk from dugout to dugout.
Adjacent to the concourse is the clubhouse/restaurant where you can get food and drinks.
This clubhouse is also very good looking.
Next to the restaurant there are conference rooms a spacious pressbox on top of the complex and a souvenir shop.
When the stadium opened, MLB was very positive about the facility and said that it would be used for several MLB events. Despite the fact that MLB will head to London for MLB games, the facility in Hoofddorp is has been used for several MLB-tryout camps.
In the meantime, the facility has been home to the preliminary rounds European Champions Cup in 2014 and to the European Championship in 2016. Next to this, the facility is the official training site for team Kingdom of the Netherlands. The stadium is surrounded by several other fields (baseball, softball and little league).
Here are some pics to give an impression of the ballpark (all photos by Dutch Baseball Hangout).