Alvark Tokyo (hereinafter referred to as A Tokyo) has returned to the Yoyogi Gymnasium, which has completed renovations, from this season. However, Yoyogi Daiichi Gymnasium will be the new home arena, not Yoyogi Daini Gymnasium, which was used in the first year of the B League. In the fall of 2025, they will announce the “TOKYO A-ARENA PROJECT” to build a new arena in Aomi, Odaiba area, and it is likely that they will lead the league in anticipation of the new B1. Nevertheless, President Kunihiko Hayashi, who has a trading company background, is not just fulfilling the requirements, but also envisioning the future of A Tokyo and the new arena with a global perspective.
“The first benchmark is Okinawa Arena.”
──The “TOKYO A-ARENA PROJECT” was announced the other day. A major project by Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota Real Estate, and Alvark Tokyo, scheduled for completion in 2025. It made me feel that the venue is not just a basketball game venue, but also advanced and large in scale. ATokyo will be the operating company for the new arena.
Many people who travel to New York want to visit Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium even if they are not really into sports. When I went to New York on a business trip, I actually went to Madison Square Garden. It’s best if there is a match, but it’s a facility that makes you want to visit even without it. What I envision on my own is to become such a presence in Tokyo.
We want to make this a place where not only domestic travelers but also inbound guests from overseas will want to visit TOKYO A-ARENA (provisional name) when they come to Japan. For that reason, not only the building but also the contents inside are important, and the whole town including the surrounding area must be lively. I want the city to be revitalized around the arena, and later on, I want people to say, “It’s been five years since the arena was built, but the city has changed a lot.”
There is a lot of entertainment in Tokyo, and it tends to be seen as competition with other entertainment such as professional baseball, J-League, and concerts. I hope not. If you live in Tokyo, you can enjoy various things nearby throughout the year, and I would like to create a cyclical structure that contributes to a rich life through sports.
──So it’s important not only to do well as a professional basketball team, but also to make it a new landmark in Tokyo.
I agree. We are the promoter of the basketball game, but we are also the operator of the arena. Now that the Okinawa Arena has opened, basketball fans are already watching videos of the venue as if it were a matter of course, and I think there are many people who have actually been there. When you see it on the ground, your sense of values changes. I thought that having a high-level match in the wonderful atmosphere of the Okinawa Arena would be an epoch-making event for the Japanese basketball world. The first benchmark for us is Okinawa Arena. In the future, I want A-ARENA (provisional name) to be a presence that people from both Japan and overseas say, “Let’s aim for that.”
“No money comes out like a mallet”
──A big project has started, but I think people tend to think that “it’s going to be an easy win, because it’s a global company like Toyota.” But in reality, it comes with a lot of responsibility and demands results.
Many people at Toyota hate to lose. No matter what you do, you have to win, and you have to have dignity in the way you win. On the other hand, in the six years since I became president, I have never been forced to do things like, “You have to do this,” or “You should do this,” or “You should do what you are told.”
Since its founding, Toyota Motor Corporation has grown along with sports, and has used the power of sports to grow the company. This mindset is instilled in every employee. That’s why Toyota’s sports club is the same, and the employees of Alvark Tokyo and Nagoya Grampus, which were derived from that, also warmly support us.
As a corporate climate and corporate culture, we never waste money. Turn off the lights frequently, don’t make copies unnecessarily, and black and white is fine except for presentations to customers. It is a company that makes a profit by producing with such rationality. You may have an image that if something happens, you will pay money unconditionally, but that is not the case at all.
When it comes to managing sports, money doesn’t come out like a mallet. We will discuss the investment and return for what we want to do, including the business plan. For the arena this time, we wanted to show the game in this way, and we wanted to connect it globally, so we needed an arena like this, and we had repeated discussions about how much we would need to invest in it. rice field. As a symbol that Toyota Motor, Toyota Real Estate, and Alvark Tokyo have formed together, the tops of the three companies are at the press conference.
──The president of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda, is known for his love of motorsports, but he also supports basketball. I hear that Vice Chairman Shigeru Hayakawa, who attended the press conference at the new arena, said more than that.
Vice Chairman Hayakawa visits the venue quite frequently. He used to be an adviser to the basketball club of Toyota Motor Corporation, so he has a deep understanding of basketball, and he knows a lot more about other clubs than I do (laughs). These people are talking to the top management of Toyota Motor Corporation, so President Toyoda is well informed about the progress of the arena project, and I have been able to explain the project directly many times. It’s a really important project.
“It is unbalanced that the benchmark is overseas but the activities are limited to Japan.”
──The new arena is scheduled to open in the fall three years from now. AWhat is your ideal image of Tokyo five or ten years from now?
Five years from now, it will be the second year since the conception of the future began, and a club that meets those requirements will have to provide a level of quality that exceeds that of the current B League. Among them, A Tokyo wants to be in a solid position. 10 years from now, it’s still hard to imagine. It’s only been seven years since the B League was established, and judging from the rapid growth so far, it would be nice if it was time to finish the second league after the NBA. When you don’t make it to the NBA roster, instead of going to the G League, you come to the B League, and when your performance in the B League is recognized, the NBA calls you up. If the box office level and the competition level go up in a chain, the world ranking of the Japanese national team should naturally go up. The Japanese national team includes not only active players of A Tokyo, but also many players who used to belong to A Tokyo. I want to be a team that can always produce such players.
Global is the key word. Both the J.League and the B.League place a lot of emphasis on regions, and I think that this should be expanded. Even though basketball is a global sport, it would be a waste to stay in one region. From our point of view, we would like to become a club that can be active in places other than Japan, and that can make foreigners who come to Japan a fan.
──Basketball is very popular in Asian countries, so it would be nice to venture out there.
Asia is a market that cannot be ignored. The population is the same, and the GDP is also rising, so I would like to raise awareness of the club while keeping an eye on it. 10 years ago, the value of ACL in soccer was low, but now it’s going up a lot. In the J-League, when Kashima Antlers qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup, Shibasaki Gaku, who played an active role at that time, transferred to Spain. In the case of basketball, there is no trade money system, so I don’t know what will happen in 10 years, but I would like to increase the value of the club by doing business with a broad perspective. I would like to expand that in 10 years.
──This is an idea that a president with a background in basketball doesn’t have, or rather, it’s like a trading company (laughs).
Maybe so. I’m not criticizing the market, but Japan’s market is shrinking due to the declining birthrate, but the world is getting smaller as IT spreads. Due to COVID-19, travel to and from overseas has decreased, but it is certain that exchanges with foreign countries will be restored again, and the market will not expand unless we do business while looking at the world. More to the point, I think it’s unbalanced that the benchmark is overseas but the activities are in Japan.
──Starting with the new arena plan, A Tokyo is in a position to lead the B League.
Without fear of misunderstanding, even if people who come to the A Tokyo arena don’t become A Tokyo fans, I think it’s important for them to go home satisfied with the thrill of watching the match and saying, “It was fun.” I’m here. It would be best to find out when the next A Tokyo game is and have them come again, but it would be nice if they liked basketball and went to see the games of other teams. It is also welcome to become a fan of a local team after watching A Tokyo’s game when you come to Tokyo. First of all, the most important thing is for people to watch the game. If we keep playing good games, they will support A Tokyo, which is the reason why they fell in love with basketball. For that reason, I will work hard to create a good team and create an extraordinary experience in the arena.