The Dallas Cowboys are America’s team. And the famous North Texas city is set to boast another sports nickname – the home of American cricket.
In a potentially game-changing announcement for the venerable British bat and ball sport, governing body USA Cricket this week unveiled plans to redevelop a vacant baseball stadium into a world-class venue and training facility for cricket.
The project is being led by American Cricket Enterprises – the parent company of Major League Cricket (MLC), the professional T20 league in the U.S. slated for 2022 – in collaboration with USA Cricket.
AirHogs Stadium in Grand Prairie, in the western suburbs of metropolitan Dallas, will be transformed into an 8,000-seat venue and become the centerpiece facility to help entice major international cricket events to the U.S, which is expected to co-host a T20 World Cup with the West Indies in the next decade.
The Grand Prairie City Council voted unanimously to redevelop the former home of the Texas AirHogs, who last month terminated their membership in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.
“We are very excited about this opportunity to bring cricket to Texas by converting our minor league baseball stadium,” Grand Prairie Mayor Ron Jensen said. “Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world behind soccer, with a large and growing audience in the states. It reminds me of 40 years ago, when soccer made a big splash in the United States.”
With its changing demographics – it has one of Texas’ largest South Asian populations – the Dallas region is seen as a prime growth area for cricket and an ideal base. The Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida, is the only International Cricket Council (ICC) certified ground in the U.S. – a locale close to the Caribbean which is home to Full Member West Indies.
But for cricket to really emerge in this congested sports market, it needed better facilities and, ideally, its showpiece attraction to be in a major American city. Dallas, perhaps through the connotations of Jerry Jones’ gaudiness or those wealthy oil tycoons from that namesake iconic ‘80s soap opera, fits the bill perfectly and a magnificent stadium there would signify cricket’s genuine arrival in a country where glitz and glamor matters.
Just ask Jones, whose Cowboys remain at exalted status despite being mired in mediocrity.
With its growing South Asian populace, the Lone Star state has for some time magnetized not only cricket administrators but private developers looking for an untapped nugget. Case in point – an ambitious plan from private developers for a $500 million, 15,000-capacity cricket stadium in Allen, a northern suburb of Dallas, which was quashed in February.
But the ground-breaking MLC, which is set to be a major drawcard for top international cricketers, is quickly changing American cricket, which had for so long been sunk by tumult on-and-off the field. It appears a more stable USA Cricket – led by San Francisco 49ers executive vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe – is ensuring resources are properly invested to safeguard cricket from being merely a monetary mirage.
Redevelopment of the soon-to-be renamed stadium is scheduled to start next year before hosting the Texas franchise in the MLC. It will also function as a high performance center for the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams and other key youth and zonal cricket squads.
“The successful development of a cricket dedicated stadium has long been a priority for us, and it is a significant stride forward for the growth of cricket in America,” Marathe said.
“We also look forward to bringing international cricket events, and the crowds that go with them, to our new stadium, and to help introduce the sport to a broader audience.”
It is the latest watershed announcement from USA Cricket following its recent Foundational Plan’s vision to establish cricket as a leading sport in the U.S. and become a Full Member of the International Cricket Council by 2030 – a coveted status currently only granted to 12 cricket nations.
USA Cricket estimates there are up to 20 million dedicated cricket fans in the country making the U.S. “the most attractive non-traditional cricket market in the world”.
And that means more high-quality cricket infrastructure will be needed across this mammoth country with any soon to be available baseball stadiums near major markets set to be prioritized.
“We can’t grow the sport without developing the infrastructure,” USA Cricket chief executive Iain Higgins told me recently. “In Morrisville we are working with authorities there to become an ODI accredited venue. The Bay Area, Houston, LA, Philadelphia… potentially doing similar things.”
But it’s in Dallas where American cricket’s heartland will be established.