Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Sept. 18) - Next year, the Yomiuri Giants will once again come to Guam for preseason training, bringing with them about 150 Japanese media representatives and as many as an estimated 30,000 baseball fans from Japan.

The team will train for two weeks in February at LeoPalace Resort, which has put millions of dollars into its sports facilities, which include a baseball stadium, Olympic-sized swimming pool, diving pool, track and a 36-hole golf course that once hosted an Asian PGA event. The resort is proving that Guam can be a world-class sports tourism destination.

Our island offers great weather for teams from colder climates to train, and is an ideal location for teams from the Western hemisphere that want to get acclimated to the time zones in Asia. On top of that, we offer quality hotels and shopping, and the amenities that come with being a U.S. territory.

What Guam has always lacked is the world-class facilities necessary to attract professional teams that are used to the best. That has changed, thanks to LeoPalace's investment in Guam, which they plan to continue, to the tune of a planned $4 million in sports facility upgrades.

It is significant to note that most of this was made possible because a private sector company was willing to invest time and money into something they felt would be worthwhile and profitable. The initiative of LeoPalace Resort was the key to this; it didn't require a ton of government involvement or subsidizing funds.

The influx of athletes, coaches, other team personnel, media and fans that the Giants pre-conditioning camp will bring to the island is a welcome boon to our long-suffering visitor industry. It also sets the stage for Guam to better market itself as a legitimate, top-notch sports tourism destination.

But we must start doing some work now. We've got to clean up the island by getting rid of junk cars and dilapidated buildings, and sprucing up our parks, beaches and other attractions. Let's get the island into shape, so it can be showcased as it should be -- a tropical island paradise -- and not only for when the Giants and their fans come, but all the time, for the benefit and enjoyment of every visitor and resident.

September 18, 2003

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