Can Cricket Actually Find Footing in the United States?
1 Nov, 2017By: Michael Popke
Almost 10 years after the $10 million taxpayer-funded stadium at Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida, opened as a cricket-specific venue, the sport might finally be catching on there and elsewhere.
The facility — named Main Event Field, which has become more multi-purpose in nature since it opened in 2008 — hosted a series of Caribbean Premier League (CPL) cricket matches in summer 2016 that drew more than 20,000 people to the park for the four-day event.
Plus, the immigrant-driven sport now appears to be making greater inroads in the United States.
“In 2000, the Indian immigrant population in the U.S. was just over one million,” BBC News reported in a recent story about cricket gaining a foothold in the Washington, D.C., area. “By 2015, it was 2.4 million.”
Main Event Field is the only sanctioned international cricket stadium in the United States, and local officials hoped it would serve the area’s increasing Caribbean population and attract marquee international matches. It boasts 5,000 permanent seats, but can hold up to 10,000 fans for soccer and 20,000 fans for cricket.
Things started slowly for the facility, but a revised business plan resulted in stadium bookings tripling over four years and park revenues jumping 33 percent over two years, according to a 2016 report.
And the 2017 Hero CPL returned to Main Event Field in August for four matches. “The support we have from Broward County and the City of Lauderhill has been second to none,” CPL communication and public relations director Peter Miller told Sun-Sentinel.com. “[Central Broward Regional Park] is such a great facility. The fans get to view some of the best cricket players in the world.”
BBC News reporter Owen Amos got straight to the heart of why cricket has been slow to catch on in the United States:
While the Washington Cricket League is certainly cosmopolitan, one thing is missing: Americans from non-cricket backgrounds.
“When we were in school, once in a while you would get an American guy showing up for practice,” says Anand Patel [a 31-year-old engineering professor and cricket player at Cecil College in Maryland]. But it’s hard to get used to cricket. For them to learn how to bowl or bat is difficult, even if they’ve played baseball. In baseball, you don’t bounce the ball — here you bounce the ball.”
Ram Ragoo [a 73-year-old player from Trinidad] agrees. “I only know one or two born Americans who play the game,”: he says. “The ICC (International Cricket Council) is trying to create [university] scholarships to get American kids involved.”
Such obstacles are not stopping Jignesh “Jay” Pandya, a Philadelphia-based real estate developer who told Newsweek.com earlier this year that he’d like to build cricket stadiums in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C. — with private or taxpayer funding — by 2019 or 2020.
“We are looking to build not just a stadium by itself,” he said. “We are actually building hotels, condominiums, restaurants, retail clubhouses and some office buildings. And the stadium will be a part of it. So it’s more like a lifestyle center — you really feel like you are a part of the whole society, the whole community. Job creation in the U.S. is what our president [Donald Trump] is looking for, and that’s where we are going. … The stadium is a multipurpose stadium, as well so it’s not just for cricket, it’s used for rugby, lacrosse, soccer — it could be used for a lot of different functions.”