Opinion and Forefront

FROEHLE: First it was Chinatown, and now cricket

October 5, 2013

FroehleEarly this year, Indianapolis expressed its intent to become a major player in the world of international sports.

Mayor Greg Ballard announced that the city would spend $6 million to convert a city park into a cricket stadium. This pitch would also allow for playing rugby and hurling, other sports popular internationally.

It seems Indianapolis will be following the example of Lauderhill, Fla., which opened a cricket stadium in 2007. Unfortunate, then, that Lauderhill’s mayor announced in April that the city would convert its cricket stadium to “a sport that can better sustain the facility and provide an economic return.”

Upon discovering this information, every Indianapolis resident should ask, “Why?”

Ballard would have residents believe the project will bring international exposure to the city and help local companies attract talented overseas workers by providing a home for their favorite games. As few American soccer fans have uprooted and moved to Europe for work, this logic seems shaky at best.

So perhaps the project won’t bring international workers to Indianapolis. The city has still managed to sign a three-year deal to host a U.S. amateur cricket tournament and championship, starting next year. The first cricket event in the United States since 2011, the tournament will surely attract the millions—no, thousands—of cricket fans in the United States to Indianapolis.

Perhaps Ballard believes a cricket stadium and subsequent tournaments will bring prestige to Indianapolis, much like the 2012 Super Bowl. The 4,000-seat cricket stadium will surely attract the same clientele and prestige as the 68,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium.

Despite a host of criticism from the community, Ballard has moved forward with the $6 million project, despite the city’s $50 million budget deficit. The enterprise will be financed from a $425 million fund set aside for infrastructure upgrades to the city. Never mind those potholes on Meridian; Indianapolis will now have its very own cricket stadium.

In recent weeks, the project has faced additional costs. Issues with wells in the surrounding area have held up construction and increased initial estimates.

This project has proved to be just one of the ways in which Ballard hopes to reinforce the idea that Indianapolis is an international city. Indianapolis residents cannot forget the mayor’s plan for building a Chinatown early on in his mayoral career. Once the mayor realized the nation’s Chinatowns aren’t so much built intentionally as created organically, discussion of welcoming the Chinese to Indianapolis by building them a town ceased.

One would like to believe that the mayor’s farfetched international city goals would all die the same quick death as his Chinatown notions. Regrettably, cricket, it appears, is here to stay.

Unfortunately, resistance to the cricket stadium has abated in the past few months, as political tides drew opponents of the stadium toward more hot-button issues. There are about as many individuals arguing against the project as there are Hoosiers who know all the rules of cricket: zero.

However, the reality for Indianapolis residents is that $6 million is, as we speak, being thrown down the city’s deteriorating drains. If only we had spent the money on actual infrastructure instead.

Will these millions be worth it in the end? Will Indianapolis gamble to become the next international city by becoming the host of internationally popular games? Though it is impossible to strike out in the game of cricket, it seems the mayor just might.•

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Froehle is a senior and Wells Scholar at Indiana University majoring in business, and a former White House intern. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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