No sponsorship, ticket sales for USACA Nationals
The 2014 USACA National Championships, already hit by the loss of a venue, faces problems of sponsorship and negligible online ticket sales. The tournament has also drawn flak for the $6 million cost of constructing the World Sport Park, the venue for the tournament, in Indianapolis.
No tickets had been sold on the tournament website, www.indycricket.us, since its launch in February, according to a source involved in the staging of the event. The website was taken down on Friday after the city of Indianapolis terminated its three-year agreement to host the USACA National Championships from 2014-2016.
"We have sold no tickets of real consequence," the source told ESPNcricinfo. "This was not unexpected though as they are general admission and can be purchased at the gate."
Tickets were being offered at prices of $10 per day for adults for the originally scheduled four-day event while a tournament pass cost $32. Tickets for children were priced at $5 a day or $15 for a tournament pass.
The tournament couldn't draw any sponsorship, despite several discussions with potential sponsors, and the city's termination letter had indicated difficulty in this area due to lack of cooperation from USACA. The website had stated that the event was expected to draw more than 5,000 visitors and varying sponsorship opportunities were listed, starting at $2,500 and going all the way up to title sponsorship of $25,000. The title sponsorship included a "special 'cricket chat' event with president of the United States Cricket Association and players of the event".
Local politician Zach Adamson, City-County Councilor At Large for Marion County, said the lack of interest in the event and its eventual cancellation was inevitable. He also said the plan to use $6 million to build the World Sports Park facility was a poor use of municipal funds.
"Anybody with Google had serious suspicions that this tournament would probably not occur," Adamson told ESPNcricinfo. "I think the administration has done a good job of diverting attention away from the reality that they planned to spend $6 million of our sorely needed road dollars on this cricket park. I don't have anything against cricket or any other sport they would play at this field, but it was a risky gamble on the best of days and not one that I think was a responsible investment of taxpayer funds."
Adamson said that city officials had justified the money spent on the park by saying it would bring revenue to the city after an agreement was struck in September 2013 to host the tournament from 2014 to 2016. However, according to Adamson, USACA's past troubles in staging events - some were either postponed or cancelled - should have raised a red flag.
"I don't have a lot of understanding about the inner workings of the cricket community but the only thing I have an understanding of is what I read of a Google search of the organisation after the announcement that we had a contract," Adamson said. "And it was the justification for the investment that the city was spending on this park because 'Look, we already we have a contract for tournaments that will bring in revenue and international eyes on the city of Indianapolis.'
"When we started to do a little background research, we found numerous questions that had arisen from not really seeing the organisation producing the kind of tournaments they said they would do with a number of other cities. There were early suspicions that just because we have a contract with them doesn't mean that we'll fare any better than other cities that may have also had contracts with them that would never see those tournaments."
According to news reports, the construction of an irrigation system at the park damaged the water wells of houses adjacent to the ground and the city had to pay more than $50,000 in property damages to some of the constituents.
Several public relations goodwill gestures - such as Mayor Greg Ballard's trip to Hyderabad, India to promote the city's ties with cricket and a formal invitation to Prince William and Kate Middleton to attend the National Championships - also did not work. According to Adamson, there was never enough support to justify the project going forward from a local point of view.
"A mayor really does need to be a visionary to bank on investments that may have a return that puts the city in a place where we can get a leg up on other cities across the country," he said. "In that respect I think the mayor is right to do those things, but those were all gambles. When you're gambling on something, you need to make sure you have good odds that you'll be successful at that gamble. With the cricket association, especially the organisation that he paired up with, the odds were not very good that this was going to be a successful venture. What I found on the internet and what everybody was finding was there were questionable dealings with this organisation from the get go. It was not a very good bet."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna