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Coming to a city near you: a cricket stadium?

Coming to a city near you: a cricket stadium?
Coming to a city near you: a cricket stadium?

 


Four years ago, after officials in Grand Prairie, Texas, came up with an idea to turn the city's underused baseball field into a cricket stadium, the city's manager, Bill Hills, was thumbing through a copy of Cricket for Dummies.

Like most Americans, Mr. Hills was oblivious to cricket. even though that is starting to change.

Last year, the 7,200-seat stadium in Grand Prairie became the new home of the Texas Super Kings, one of six teams that played in the inaugural season of Major League Cricket. And last week the venue hosted the US national team's biggest ever win, a stunning upset by Pakistan in the Men's T20 World Cup, which this year is co-hosted by the United States and several Caribbean countries and ends on June 29.

A few days later, more than 34,000 cricket fans watched India narrowly beat Pakistan in a temporary stadium built on Long Island. When Los Angeles hosts the 2028 Summer Olympics, cricket will be one of the new sports played.

Cricket, the world's second most popular sport, is having a moment in the United States, and investors are looking to cash in on a growing audience for the sport, especially among the cricket-loving South Asian diaspora. That includes backers of Major League Cricket franchises who are devising plans for dedicated cricket stadiums in their own cities. The San Francisco Unicorns, the Los Angeles Knight Riders and the Seattle Orcas (partly owned by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella) are negotiating leases and approvals to build new venues, with hopes of opening them in the coming years.

Mr. Hills said last season's Major League Cricket matches in Grand Prairie definitely exceeded our expectations. During the two-week season and postseason, some 50,000 people attended a dozen games in Grand Prairie, and the July 27 to July 30 playoffs generated $1.7 million in economic activity, including retail, entertainment, car rental , hotels and restaurants. Next season's competitions begin in July, with Grand Prairie hosting 16 games. Mr Hills expects 85,000 fans to show up for the games.

Who would have thought, Mr. Hills said, that a city like Grand Prairie would host international sporting events watched by millions of people around the world.

This makes Grand Prairie a destination, and not just a small town between Dallas and Fort Worth, he said.

Major League Crickets' priorities include building more stadiums with 7,000 to 10,000 seats near vibrant areas that could later develop into entertainment districts. The stadiums will be used as playing fields to nurture young talent and an appreciation for the game, said Will Swann, the league's vice president of business development and infrastructure.

David Demarest, who heads the sports and entertainment development group at property brokerage JLL, said cricket stadiums offered a great opportunity to have an anchor that attracts people.

These are facilities that you can program outside of cricket matches, he said.

The Seattle Orcas plan to build a stadium at Marymoor Park in Redmond, Washington, near a booming downtown area formed by the Microsoft campus and the city of Bellevue. The Los Angeles Knight Riders have scouted a spot in the Great Park in Irvine, California, an affluent part of Orange County. The San Francisco Unicorns have proposed building a stadium at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds, a redevelopment site near Silicon Valley, and have been working on schematics with Devcon, the company behind the San Francisco 49ers stadium.

The proposed location for the San Francisco team offers development potential and demographic appeal. The team's research shows that the Greater Bay Area is home to a wealthy community of about 250,000 people originally from India or elsewhere in South Asia, said David White, the team's general manager. The Santa Clara location hopes to attract multiple sports venues, including a Major League Soccer stadium, to become a center for sports and entertainment.

These developments should be built with fans from South Asia and other areas where cricket is popular, said Major League Crickets tournament director Justin Geale.

We have samosas, and we also have hot dogs, he said. We can bring together and bring together the best of American sports and the best of cricket.

Cricket-focused developments are also happening outside the league: In Oswego, Illinois, a suburb west of Chicago, Paresh Patel, an entrepreneur, received approval to develop Breybourne Stadium, which will be a 25,000-seat venue and a 120-star stadium will include. room hotel, restaurant and luxury clubhouse for special events. The stadium will break ground this summer and have more seats than the United Center, home of the NBA's Chicago Bulls and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.

Baseball evolved from cricket, where two teams face each other on a larger, circular field and, to make things simpler, take turns batting and bowling in the hope of scoring the most points. Once a popular American pastimecricket was overtaken by baseball at the end of the 19th century. At its height, there were thousands of cricket clubs operating across the country, taking part in what The New York Times described a shipment from 1853 as a masculine and athletic sport.

For purists, the highest form of the game is the so-called Test match, which can last up to five days. But a newer, more action-packed playing format, Twenty20, has quickly grown in popularity. These games can be played in three hours and appeal to broadcasters and modern audiences. The Indian Premier League, one of the most valuable sporting events in the world, uses this format, as does Major League Cricket in the United States. (Many of the teams in the American league have shares in Indian franchises.)

Major League Cricket is often compared to Major League Soccer, the American league that started nearly thirty years ago and now features many custom-built soccer stadiums amid mixed-use urban developments, with enough appeal to attract global stars. The relatively short Major League Cricket season runs between the schedules of other global cricket competitions, allowing many of the sport's top players, including Australian stars Steve Smith, Pat Cummins and Glenn Maxwell, to play in the American competition. Think of it as if David Beckham and Lionel Messi played in the first season of Major League Soccer, rather than long after the league had established itself.

Yet cricket in the United States is still far from the popularity and investment needed to support major stadiums like Lords Cricket Ground in London, Eden Gardens in India or the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia.

The only reason why cricket isn't played at the highest level of competition is because there is no infrastructure in this country, says Vijay Srinivasan, a Bay Area-based entrepreneur who founded Willow, a pay-TV channel for cricket matches that grew from a small streaming site . to a cable channel that reaches four million American households.

Sources

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2/ https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/16/business/cricket-stadiums.html

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