Mayor approaches ICC to save Florida venue
Richard J. Kaplan, Mayor of Lauderhill, Florida, says his letter to the ICC earlier this month was written in a last-ditch effort to get them to intervene and be proactive with the USA Cricket Association (USACA) about holding more events at the cricket stadium at the Central Broward Regional Park before plans are enacted by Broward County officials to convert the venue into a facility for other sports.
"I'm afraid what the county is going to do [is] go ahead and proceed (to make the conversion). We're at the 11th hour," Kaplan told ESPNcricinfo. "The ICC, if they do nothing or they say sorry there's nothing we can do, that is the answer. Cricket in the United States will go away."
Kaplan says that last year's pair of Twenty20 matches between West Indies and New Zealand at the ICC's only certified ODI stadium facility in USA proved the sport can be commercially viable in Florida as evidenced by the 15,000 people that were estimated to have attended each day. However, he says that the inability to sanction more events is a source of frustration for local officials who want to host more games with ICC Full Members, but can't without USACA's permission.
"From those games we believe it is [commercially sound], but you can't have games unless they're sanctioned," Kaplan said. "Not because you can't sell tickets or get TV time. It's not viable for the one reason you would never expect: you can't get permission to have the game.
"You can't survive on putting on one event a year, and waiting a few weeks before the event before you even get permission to put it on. That just does not work. If I was USACA, I would embrace this stadium, prove how well it works, get as many games in there as possible, just to go to other parts of the country and prove how well this [concept] works so they can establish more stadiums in the rest of the country."
According to Kaplan, he spoke with USACA president Gladstone Dainty ahead of sending out the letter to the ICC to voice his concerns. Kaplan says that Dainty's response was that developing and staging events in other areas of the country was a higher priority, specifically in New York.
"Their president would prefer games be played in New York at some unknown field," Kaplan said. "He expressed to me that he did not want to have ODIs in Florida, that he wanted to develop cricket in New York. I asked at what facility and he says he has a couple in mind. There is no facility in New York that can compete with what we have here. I don't know what it is that he's thinking but I'm afraid that USACA will be the cause of [their] downfall. If USACA continues down the road it's going, cricket is going to be set back 15-20 years with no hope in the future of ever getting back to the level that it is right now. We are fully prepared and capable of handling international events."
"This is what's interesting. Dainty started telling me that he's president of USACA and that USACA gave that authority [to sanction events] to Cricket Holdings America. I said, 'Who's the president of Cricket Holdings America?' He said, 'I am.' So you're the same person on both boards that can provide sanctioning?"
Mayor Greg Ballard of Indianapolis, Indiana, visited India earlier this month and discussed plans to construct an international cricket facility in Indianapolis, something that was initially reported by ESPNcricinfo in 2009. Kaplan says that he can't see how any other city would want to follow through on such an investment after witnessing what has happened with the stadium in Lauderhill, which was built as part of a $70 million county park.
"It's been told to me that [USACA] is trying to get other cities in the United States to build facilities that could be accredited," Kaplan said. "I will tell you that I know most of the mayors in the country that may deal with this thing, and I presume they're gonna talk to me about how it turned out in Florida. It isn't gonna be a positive review. I would assume that any area that is doing due diligence on working out the economic viability are going to look at what presently exists, in which case they're going to come and take a look at what happened here, and they're gonna ask what happened."
"It's being utilized a little bit by some Associate members and developmental teams for the ICC. It's [also] being used by some private groups from American College Cricket, but not one of those events puts anybody in the stands. It doesn't sell one ticket. I don't need a multi-million dollar stadium with 5000 permanent seats to sit there with nobody using it. I can understand the county's point that somebody needs to use it. It's a wasting asset."
Without more revenue generating events, Kaplan says that stadium reconfiguration may begin by the end of this summer. The most likely sports that the stadium would accommodate would be soccer, lacrosse or minor league baseball.
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey