Members of the International Cricket Council made their way to Indianapolis Tuesday for an inspection of the much ballyhooed World Sports Park on the east side of the city.
While some local taxpayers, and even a few City-County Council members, have called the park a boondoggle, U.S. cricket aficionados have raved about it. Add a significant member of the international cricket community to the list of fans of the 48-acre park.
“The facility here is fabulous,” Alan Isaac, president of the International Cricket Council, told IBJ after touring the World Sports Park on Wednesday. “It’s a unique facility in a lot of ways, and I could see it hosting a lot of events.”
Mayor Greg Ballard is hopeful the $6 million park can draw myriad regional, national and even international events. Ballard also said local organizations too can take advantage of the multi-purpose fields.
It should be noted that the World Sports Park can also host soccer, lacrosse, rugby and other sports events. But the focus has been on cricket since Ballard made comments to a gathering during a trade mission in India this April about Indy’s attempts to become something of a U.S. cricket capital.
Already, the city has signed an agreement with the USA Cricket Association to host the men’s national championship here in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Next year’s USACA National Championships will be Aug. 21-24.
The International Cricket Council, which is based in Dubai, doesn’t have any events slated for Indianapolis’ World Sports Park yet, but Isaac said that’s a possibility “down the line.”
“The facility needs to be approved to international standards, and the way it’s being designed and developed, I’m confident it will be,” said Isaac, a native of New Zealand.
Isaac thinks city leaders’ support for cricket will help the sport grow and draw events here with a significant economic impact.
“We are hugely impressed by the support of the city for this development and cricket, and we think [the World Sports Park] is going to host a lot of fantastic events in the future,” Isaac said.
Already the facility has begun to enhance the city’s international reputation, especially in the world of sports, Isaac said. The facility won’t fully open until next year.
“This city has already built a fantastic reputation in sports,” Isaac said. “This facility will absolutely help spread the international reputation of the city.”
In addition to inspecting the local facility, Isaac was in Indianapolis this week to talk to local officials about ways to grow the sport here. While there are only 60,000 cricket players in the U.S., according to USA Cricket, Isaac pointed out that there are millions more cricket players and fans in places like India, Southeast Asia and England.
“People have to realize that cricket is the No. 2 sport worldwide next to [soccer],” Isaac said. “The ICC World Cup is right behind the [soccer] World Cup and Olympics in terms of [television] viewership.”