CPL chief promises affordable tickets for US games
Caribbean Premier League chief executive Damien O'Donohoe has said that the league is committed to put development over profits as the key aim of the CPL's foray into the United States for the 2016 season. The CPL announced on Wednesday that six games will be held in the USA this July and O'Donohoe says making tickets affordable to bring in new fans is a high priority.
"I think the opportunity to play games is obviously a huge opportunity both for ourselves and for the ICC in terms of developing the game," O'Donohoe said from the CPL draft in Barbados. "We're going to be the first professional league. We've seen the All-Stars games go in there in November and it was great to see the turn-out even though the ticket price was very expensive.
Less than 15% of the available tickets for the Cricket All-Stars matches in New York, Houston and Los Angeles originally went on sale for $50-75, while the overwhelming majority of tickets were priced at $150 or more all the way up to $325 in Los Angeles. Though the crowds were large compared to other venues around the world, the vibrant scenes were dwarfed by empty seats, especially in Los Angeles with a crowd of 20,900 showing up to the 56,000-seater Dodger Stadium.
When West Indies hosted New Zealand in 2012 at the Central Broward Regional Park [CBRP] in Florida, general admission on the grass bank on the north boundary cost $20 while reserved seats under the south grandstand were priced at $30. The low prices produced an estimated crowd of 15,000 people for the opening T20I of that series. It was recognised as a sell-out crowd for the CBRP, though temporary seats could have been added to accommodate up to 5,000 more people. O'Donohoe hopes that same formula will lead to success for the CPL in the USA.
"We're going to go in a very low-end ticket price and make these games accessible to everyone because this is about developing the game, building a fan base in the US and growing the game internationally. The West Indies have hosted games there but we're going to be the first professional T20 league. Now that's an opportunity obviously but it's also a risk."
Although the CPL release stated only that games would be played in the USA, the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida is the only ICC-certified ODI stadium venue in the country. Multiple sources told ESPNcricinfo on Wednesday that the CBRP has been reserved for use by the CPL from July 17 to 31. Even though O'Donohoe would like to plant the seeds of CPL interest beyond Florida, having a lone ICC-certified turf pitch venue limits his options.
"We haven't confirmed exactly where we're going to play the games just yet," O'Donohoe said. "Obviously the lack of stadiums is always going to be a challenge. There's only one at Lauderhill as we know but we've always wanted to play games in the US as part of CPL and we've said that from day one. So now we have the opportunity and we've been working very closely with Tim Anderson and Dave Richardson at the ICC in terms of just how we're going to enter the US market but we really have one chance and we need to make sure we get it right.
"With everything that we do there's a Caribbean flavor and hopefully we can mirror what we did in the Caribbean in the US. Cricket has been on the decline a little bit here. No one makes any secret of that and I think CPL has done amazingly well to revitalize and reenergize cricket here in the Caribbean and we want to take that same approach to the US."
O'Donohoe says both the quantity and quality of player applications took a big step up for this year's competition, an indication to him that the CPL is fast turning into a desirable destination for both players and fans. He hopes that bringing matches to the USA is another forward step in building up the profile of the league one he feels is worth mentioning in the same category as the IPL and Big Bash.
"The standard of players that we've had apply and from 14 or 15 countries around the world, it just shows how far CPL has come," O'Donohoe said. "I think playing the games in America is just another statement just to show how serious we are and hopefully that we're seen now as one of the big three in terms of the T20 leagues around the world."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna