USA news August 19, 2009

Unrest at Florida's cricketing 'white elephant'

Cricinfo staff

Although Don Lockerbie, the USA Cricket Association's CEO, has outlined ambitious plans for the game in the country, some locals in Florida are less than impressed that the USA's first purpose-built stadium has yet to stage a major match, more than two years after it was opened.

The construction of the ground at Broward County in Lauderhill was never universally welcomed, and many locals expressed concern at a bill running into tens of millions of dollars. At the time, they were assured it was the first step in bringing big-time cricket to the USA, and the ICC sanctioned it as the first international-standard venue in the country. Up to now, however, all it has hosted are a handful of minor matches, but is often empty as few can afford the significant hiring fees asked for.

The 5000-seater stadium - it can be expanded to accommodate 20,000 with temporary stands - is proving a white elephant, and it is believed to have lost more than US$1m in its last financial year.

"We understand that there will be commentary and a lot of frustration by the stakeholders who feel that the stadium hasn't seen its fair share of international cricket," Lockerbie told the Florida-based Sentinel newspaper. "The point is, the United States itself has not been the powerhouse of cricket."

Tentative plans to attract major international teams were in place as far back as 2006, and there was even talk of hosting warm-up matches in Florida ahead of the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007. But such was the shambles with the USACA at the time, the country was sidelined and ambitious plans were shelved.

Lockerbie, however, is confident that is all in the past and is adamant the big time is not far away. There is talk of attracting teams to Florida ahead of next April's ICC World Cup Twenty20 (again staged in the Caribbean) but to date countries contacted by Cricinfo have expressed, at best, lukewarm interest.

"It's not quite simply you build it and they will come," John Webb, senior vice president for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, told the Sentinel. "We're selling it the best we can."

If Lockerbie's plans come good, then Broward County could become a major venue for international cricket, probably of the Twenty20 variety which many believe is the way to crack the US market. If they don't, then the local taxpayers, already increasingly vocal, will only grow more agitated.