Florida steps in to host USACA Nationals
The USA Cricket Association announced that this year's USACA National Championship will now be moved to Lauderhill, Florida following the termination of a three-year hosting agreement on Friday by the city of Indianapolis, Indiana. The dates for the tournament have also been changed from August 21-24 to August 14-16.
On Friday, the city of Indianapolis stated in a letter to USACA and in a press release from the mayor's office that it was terminating the agreement largely due to a breakdown in communication following the March resignation of USACA chief executive Darren Beazley and an inability for USACA to work with the city to identify and secure sponsorships for the event. The event also suffered from problems with ticket sales with none sold since the tournament web site was launched in February. In its own press release on Monday, USACA shifted blame back onto the city and praised the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida as a much better facility than what Indianapolis offered due to its floodlights, seating and practice facilities.
"The costs for teams, families and fans to travel and stay in Indianapolis were just exceptionally high," Sunil Kumar, USACA project manager for the National Championships, said in the release. "There are rarely if ever enough direct flights available and that was causing teams to have to take more personal time off. Added to this we were not able to get a large enough sponsor to subsidize these costs for all regions and the forty plus leagues involved in the national championship if the tournament was to be held in a non-traditional cricket market."
Despite USACA's claims that the cost to travel to Indianapolis was exceptionally high, on average it will actually cost more for teams to travel to Florida during the scheduled tournament dates. Flights from six cities with high concentrations of US players - New York, Newark, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle - cost on average $356 to fly to Indianapolis during the originally scheduled tournament dates whereas the average cost jumps to $377 to go to Fort Lauderdale for the new tournament dates. While it is marginally cheaper for flights from the east coast cities to Florida, those on the west coast will have to pay on average $56 more per ticket to get to Fort Lauderdale compared to Indianapolis.
USACA also claimed that because the event will now be held in Florida, it will allow more support from the West Indies Cricket Board. "This is the largest national championship event in the history of US cricket," USACA president Gladstone Dainty said. "We wish the City of Indianapolis the very best and respect that they did not feel able to help financially support the endeavor over the long run. This was a very expansive idea which needed an extremely big financial commitment."
Marc Lotter, director of communications for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, stood by the original statements made by the mayor's office on Friday when asked for a response to USACA's Monday press release. "No city in America hosts more successful sporting events than Indy," Lotter said. "We were ready, willing and capable of hosting this tournament. The only thing lacking was a capable partner."
USACA also stated in its release that they did not object to Indianapolis' decision to terminate with one reason being that the ICC "would not grant support funding for an additional national stadium in Indianapolis as the city was not prepared to commit rights and involvement in the sport over a long enough period to justify the multi-million dollar grant application." An ICC email written on Thursday to USACA, and obtained by ESPNcricinfo, indicates that it was USACA's responsibility to facilitate a long-term agreement and when one was not secured the ICC rejected USACA's application.
"One of the key criteria of the fund is that 'the application National Cricket Federation must be able to show long term control and rights of use over the facility/land detailed in the application, preferably through direct ownership or a long term lease (min. 20 years),'" wrote Andy Hobbs, ICC Development Programmes Manager. "Unfortunately the application did not demonstrate this long term control and rights of the facility in question. Further, the application didn't demonstrate any significant use of the facility by USACA, other than for the US Cricket Nationals for a period of three years."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna