NCsoft, a local online game company, received its final stamp of approval Tuesday to launch a new professional baseball team in South Korea.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced that NCsoft met the required support from owners of the league's eight existing teams. The league office said seven owners approved the expansion, and the company needed two-thirds of support.
After the company received a go-ahead sign from team presidents last week, getting owners' approval was considered a mere formality.
The new team will be based in Changwon, about 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and could join the KBO as early as 2013. It will be the league's first expansion since 1991.
NCsoft will have to pay 5 billion won (US$4.5 million) in league entry fees, which are contributed to the league development fund. The KBO said the fees must be paid within 30 days of the owners' approval.
NCsoft will have to build a new stadium of at least 25,000 seats within five years of the team owners' approval, the KBO added, or it won't get back a 10 billion won deposit.
The KBO wants to have 10 teams by 2014 so that it will have an even number of teams and have an option for a two-division setting.
NCsoft will hold a press conference in Changwon on Thursday to formally announce its KBO membership.
Team officials are still trying to reach a compromise on the expansion draft and other ways to supply the NCsoft team with players. On March 8, the league's executive committee, made up of the teams' general managers, agreed to allow the new team to select extra players at its first two annual rookie drafts and to carry an extra foreign player in addition to selecting veterans during the expansion draft.
The Busan-based Lotte Giants were the only club to throw a dissenting vote Tuesday. The Giants had been the most vocal opponent of the NCsoft expansion, for fear that they could lose their fan base to the new club.
Fans in Changwon, currently a second home for the Giants, often travel to Busan, about an hour's drive away, to watch the Giants play. Lotte is the only club to have drawn more than 1 million fans in each of the past three seasons.