Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna
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Major League Cricket (MLC), USA Cricket's official franchise league that is set for a 2023 launch, is teaming up with the Knight Riders Group - principal owners of Kolkata Knight Riders and Trinbago Knight Riders, as well as one of MLC's lead investing partners - for plans to construct a brand-new 10,000-capacity cricket venue in Southern California.
The proposed site of the new venue is at Great Park in the city of Irvine, located in Orange County about 40 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. According to an MLC source, the new venue is expected to cost in the range of USD 30 million.
If approved, there would be a tight race for it to be constructed in time for the 2024 men's T20 World Cup, which USA is co-hosting with the West Indies. But it will definitely be ready in time to become a prime venue for USA's attempt to have cricket included as part of the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. By extension, it will also then become the home of the Southern California franchise for Major League Cricket.
"Our investment in MLC in America is based on our belief in the exciting future of cricket in the USA and is well aligned to our strategy of establishing Knight Riders as a global brand in T20 cricket," Shah Rukh Khan, co-owner of the Knight Riders, was quoted as saying by an MLC press release. "Plans to build a world class cricket stadium in the greater Los Angeles area is exciting for us and MLC. This will no doubt have a transformational impact for cricket in one of the world's most iconic metropolitan destinations."
At the moment, the main turf cricket venue in Southern California is at Woodley Park, which is located 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles in the suburb of Van Nuys. The facility holds four turf cricket fields and hosted the ICC World Cricket League Division Four tournament in 2016, but lacks infrastructure for hosting larger-scale events.
However, Great Park is part of a larger-scale billion-dollar sports complex that was publicly funded and opened in 2007. It features superior infrastructure capable of hosting large crowds for revenue-generating events.
The 1300-acre site of a former Marine Corps Air Station currently features 25 tennis courts, 18 football fields (one of which is a 2500-seat facility), seven baseball fields, five softball fields, five volleyball courts, four basketball courts and four ice-hockey rinks. There is also an auto drag racing track adjacent to the facility.
"MLC is committed to building outstanding infrastructure for cricket in key markets accessible to legions of cricket-loving fans. We're grateful to the City of Irvine for agreeing to explore this development in the heart of Orange County," Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan, co-founders of MLC, said. "Great Park's position as a hub for community recreation and its array of first-class sports facilities makes it an ideal location for the addition of a venue serving the local cricket-loving community and the broader Greater Los Angeles region with major international cricket events set to take place there."
The proposed facility at Great Park is part of nationwide plans by MLC to build seven facilities over the next several years with a proposed budget of USD 110 million.