The organizers of Major League Cricket, USA's officially sanctioned T20 franchise league anticipated to launch in 2023, announced on Thursday the next phase of their venue development plan, in which they intend to spend approximately $110 million dollars on building or renovating a total of eight venues around the USA.
Aside from five venues already in existence earmarked for upgrades, MLC is in negotiations to secure land and build new venues at Marymoor Park in the eastern Seattle suburb of Redmond, Washington; as well as two California venues - one proposed for the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, and the other in Orange County south of Los Angeles.
"This array of venue developments in areas with significant cricket-passionate communities comes as the International Cricket Council (ICC) has identified the United States as its primary target market to expand the game with the award of co-hosting rights to the 2024 T20 Men's World Cup," Sameer Mehta, co-founder of Major League Cricket, said. "MLC is committed to supporting that vision alongside its long-term partner USA Cricket and we're excited to work together to transform the landscape and opportunities for cricket to rapidly develop across the country with this infrastructure investment."
The announcement comes following the first venue acquisition made by MLC and its parent American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) in November 2020 of AirHogs Stadium in the Dallas, Texas suburb of Grand Prairie. The former minor league baseball facility was originally due to have renovations completed for its opening as a cricket venue in 2022.
But according to multiple sources, administrators experienced logistical difficulties securing permits to begin construction work on making necessary design changes to the facility to make it suitable for cricket. As a result, MLC still has yet to break ground on any construction work, but officials have stated that construction is now anticipated to begin in April 2022. When it opened as a baseball facility in 2008, seating capacity was 5,445, but MLC has stated that once renovations are completed it will have 7,000 permanent seats with a total capacity of 15,000, though it may be expanded to 20,000 with temporary seating for large-scale events.
The other venues currently in existence which MLC has committed to making upgrades to are Church Street Park in Morrisville, North Carolina, as well as two venues in the Houston metropolitan area: Moosa Stadium, located about 25 miles south of downtown Houston in the suburb of Pearland; and Prairie View Cricket Complex, which is located 50 miles northwest of Houston in the university town of Prairie View. Church Street Park is anticipated to have the most significant changes, with broadcast facilities and up to 3,500 permanent seats added to the facility making total capacity expandable up to 5,000. According to an MLC spokesperson, changes to each of the existing facilities will cost upwards of $3 million per venue.
At the moment, the three most likely venues to have successful bids for USA's half of co-hosting the 2024 Men's ICC T20 World Cup would be AirHogs Stadium, Church Street Park and Broward County Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida. The 10,000 capacity Broward County Stadium is currently the only ICC certified ODI and T20I venue in the USA and MLC says it is also in discussions with local officials to invest in making upgrades to the facility.
However, MLC has announced they are in negotiations with city officials for three new west coast venues which could not only open up doors for staging venues for the franchise league ahead of its anticipated launch in 2023, but could also serve as potential venues for the 2024 T20 World Cup with each design plan for the three venues projecting a capacity between 10,000 and 20,000. An MLC spokesperson says that the projected cost for each of the venues in Seattle, San Jose and Orange County will be approximately $30 million.
None of MLC's plans include a venue in the New York metropolitan area. However, a group unaffiliated with MLC is trying to rally support for securing land to build a possible venue. Their proposed plan involves securing land at one of three potential sites: Marine Park in Brooklyn; Spring Creek Park just west of JFK Airport along the Belt Parkway in Queens; or repurposing the south parking lot at Aqueduct Racetrack, also in Queens. Businessman Chubb Bedessee, who has longstanding ties in both the New York and West Indian cricket communities, is spearheading the initiative in the hopes that New York can be a host venue for the 2024 Men's ICC T20 World Cup.
Bedessee's NYC stadium project is also being supported by former ICC events manager Eddie Fitzgibbon, Jamaica Tallawahs CEO Jeff Miller, USA Cricket board member Ajith Bhaskar and former USA Cricket Association executive secretary John Aaron, among others. In the four weeks since an online petition went live on February 22 soliciting signatures in support of the project, a source told ESPNcricinfo that 830 people have signed the petition.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna