USA news April 14, 2013

Plans for Florida's stadium to be redeveloped


In a move that could strike a devastating blow to the development of cricket in America, the city of Lauderhill, Florida is in the process of initiating a business plan to redevelop the cricket stadium inside the Central Broward Regional Park into a facility more suitable for other sports and activities that will generate enough revenue to sustain the operating costs of the facility. In a sternly worded letter by Lauderhill Mayor Richard J Kaplan addressed to ICC chief executive David Richardson dated April 9 and obtained by ESPNcricinfo, Kaplan blames the USA Cricket Association for the facility's lack of revenue from marquee cricket events mainly due to the governing body's failure to facilitate such events.

"After several years of under utilization by our sanctioning cricket body USACA, the City of Lauderhill and Broward County have had to look at other alternative uses for the stadium that will sell tickets to fill seats," Kaplan wrote. "As a result, Broward County is about to release an independent business plan which will advise government officials that it is time to consider a reconfiguration of the stadium to a sport that can better sustain the facility and provide an economic return."

The 20,000 capacity stadium opened in November 2007 as part of a $70 million county park complex. It is the only ICC approved ODI stadium facility in North America. Since it opened though, the stadium has been a lightning rod for criticism among local media and taxpayers in south Florida. An article in August 2009 in the South Florida Sun Sentinel titled, "Broward Built It, But Cricket Hasn't Come" detailed frustrations from the local community at the paltry attendance figures drawn for cricket matches in the stadium. An editorial in the same newspaper in August 2011 about the Central Broward Regional Park referred to the facility as "a legendary example of Broward officials setting taxpayer money on fire."

The stadium has rarely been used for cricket over the last five and a half years but has seen many other sports use the cricket pitch. Among the matches staged on the stadium turf have been flag football tournaments, MLS exhibition matches, FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup warm-up matches, a semi-pro gridiron league and a 2011 IRB Rugby World Cup qualifying match between USA and Uruguay. 2012 ICC World Cricket League Division Four was tentatively scheduled to be held in Florida last May with the stadium serving as one of three tournament venues, but USACA's governance issues, including repeatedly postponed elections, resulted in the event shifting to Malaysia later in the year.

Kaplan's letter to Richardson is particularly stinging in his summary of USACA's credentials and reputation stating that the organization "is still suffering from management issues" and that its "long sordid history of suspensions and poor governance has plagued a territory with the greatest potential." The mayor goes on to state that the pair of Twenty20 matches staged at the stadium in Lauderhill last year between the West Indies and New Zealand proved that the city and county were capable of staging world class events, but despite encouragement from local government officials and business leaders, USACA has failed to help make similar events happen.

"Our pleas to USACA to sanction additional games in the USA have fallen on deaf ears. Affiliate, Associate, and even Full body members of your organization have asked for our assistance in order to hold matches here knowing the major hurdle is and continues to be USACA's sanctioning," Kaplan wrote to Richardson. "Therefore opportunity after opportunity has been lost. Cricket, with all of its potential, continuously has disappointed this community and as such may not be able to continue."

"The stadium, if left as it is today, is likely to be converted to something that would make even the ICC developmental tournaments for other ICC Associates countries in the region impossible. Such action will probably occur sometime in the next few months, so time is of the essence. This is of course unless something is done to guarantee its use on a regular, long-term basis. We implore you to assist us with either considering some other means of holding international games without being held hostage by one uninterested and incapable governing body, or guarantee us some long term plan whereby we can establish a calendar of international events that would help us sustain the facility as it is now."

When contacted by ESPNcricinfo, USACA chief executive Darren Beazley acknowledged receiving a copy of the letter from Mayor Kaplan. Beazley stated that USACA and Cricket Holdings America (CHALLC), the partnership between USACA and New Zealand Cricket which holds the commercial rights to stage cricket matches in the USA, are committed to having cricket matches at the stadium once suitable proposals are put forward.

"USACA is aware of the letter from the Mayor," Beazley stated in an email to ESPNcricinfo. "After several meetings and numerous conversations with the City and the Friends of Broward County, neither USACA nor CHALLC (who controls the rights to international fixtures on USACA's behalf) have yet to receive a proposal to consider. No fewer than 4 requests for such a proposal have been made."

"USACA wants as much cricket in the US as possible at venues right across the nation, including Lauderhill. As we move to a more professional management structure, we'll continue to work with groups such as the City of Lauderhill, but always with the best interests of cricket foremost in mind. I am confident that should a professional proposal be received, CHALLC will consider it carefully, and if it makes commercial sense, an excellent result for our game will be achieved."

There were rumors circulating last month that CHALLC was attempting to lure Sri Lanka and Pakistan for a series of T20 or ODI matches at the stadium in late June or July. Sri Lanka is touring the West Indies for an ODI tri-series that begins at the conclusion of the ICC Champions Trophy and runs until July 11. Pakistan was due to tour the West Indies later that month ahead of the start of the Caribbean T20 on July 29.

It was hoped that Sri Lanka and Pakistan's respective tours to the Caribbean would dovetail into a series in Florida. However, ESPNcricinfo sources have indicated that both the Pakistan Cricket Board and Sri Lanka Cricket were approached about coming to Florida for a short series, but neither board showed much interest. Meanwhile, ESPNcricinfo reported on April 5 that Pakistan's tour to the West Indies is already in doubt and as a result so would the chances of packaging a trip to Florida alongside it.

Prior plans by CHALLC to launch a professional Twenty20 league in the USA this summer were pushed back to the summer of 2014. Lauderhill had originally been viewed as a host site for some teams, particularly as it is the only stadium turf venue in the country. However, CHALLC chief executive Neil Maxwell has expressed plans to play on artificial wickets in New York and San Francisco in order to seize the market potential in both cities, a move which would further undermine Lauderhill's status in the US cricket landscape.

Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 15, 2013, 15:40 GMT

    this is a shame ,a great ground in South Florida, seems like usaca has struck again. The people in charge of cricket need to get a grip.Disney wanted to have a ground in Orlando, usaca did nothing. I agree with Syed B a sad day. Until politics are removed from American cricket it will never develop.I see the politics in Florida cricket all the time, but nothing changes,it breaks my heart,i love cricket

  • Gamini on April 15, 2013, 3:21 GMT

    It is the same story elsewhere in the USA where cricket is concerned. People who still live inside the box, who do not know anything about cricket administration are messing up cricket. They are happy with things as it is. No vision. No change. No development plans. There is no first class regional tournament that I know of. I live in Georgia and my information is that cricket is just played like a backyard game in this state.

  • Rob on April 15, 2013, 3:09 GMT

    And when the 2 20/20 games were held there last year, there were 15,000 at each match. What a total waste if this purpose designed stadium is given away. Time now for the ICC/BCCI to step up.

  • Tim on April 14, 2013, 18:31 GMT

    If Lauderhill loses its cricket ground it came about for the same reason every other cricket undertaking in the USA has failed: no mainstream interest in the game. A league with no fans, a stadium with no fans, tournaments with no fans just won't make it. The starting point has to be generating interest in cricket with mainstream Americans. Without it every scheme or plan for cricket in the USA, no matter how enthusiastic or grandiose, will fail sonner or later.

  • Dummy4 on April 14, 2013, 17:50 GMT

    This is a pity. It's a great little stadium, and I really enjoyed covering the NZ West Indies matches there. If teams started off their tours of the West Indies with a tri-series vs USA and one of the island nations there as warm-up matches (the way that teams often play ODI's against Ireland and Scotland as warm ups of a tour of England) it could be profitable, but I guess that requires some forward thinking by USACA.

  • Charles on April 14, 2013, 17:29 GMT

    It will be a sad day for US cricket with lost stadium privs, but with chnge, comes opprtunities. I see the sharks are beginning to circle, which also can do very little for US cricket. It appears that all, & I mean all who aspire to be cricket leaders in the US have the mentality that no 1 but them have the answers, so better not help less the enemy gets the credit. Cricket Loses! Mr Della Penna & CricInfo is not exempt from this. They waste no time to point out the deficiencies, for which we are often glad, but good journalism demands a deeper look. Broward County must share some blame for the failure of the stadium's use, and ability to raise money. The restrictions placed on most anyone using the stadium, precludes all but the largest of ventures, to market the stadium. Please check into these. The cricket community are not to place all the eggs into a few sites and look to other than free money to move cricket. The model, rich cats (indiv or orgs) own all is wrong for cricket.

  • Eddie on April 14, 2013, 15:31 GMT

    its a shame, that ground looks pretty decent for a sport that would be extremely low on a lot of American's preferences, if they know about it at all. All it would take would be some exciting t20 games with decent teams. Maybe Australia or England could play the west indies. That would attract a multicultural audience

  • Dummy4 on April 14, 2013, 9:55 GMT

    Incredible failure by the US authorities. Would be great to see a team based there in the upcoming new Carribean T20 league, surely with a smattering of international stars, homegrown US players and a few decent players from the ranks of West Indies cricket they would be more than competitive. There is just no imagination!!

  • zahidul on April 14, 2013, 9:32 GMT

    only way cricket will improve in usa , if they can arrange any match in NEWYORK , bcz in newyork majority of the people lives are asian

  • Yazir on April 14, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    sad to hear cricket ruined by bad management. sri lanka should definitely go to florida and play against west indies, the no. 1 ranked T20 team against the world champions,

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