Florida’s Broward County Stadium Expands Before Cricket T20 World Cup

 Florida’s Broward County Stadium Expands Before Cricket T20 World Cup



By SAQIB SALEEM QURESHI (Newyork)

Florida’s Broward County Stadium Expands Before Cricket T20 World Cup

The ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup is coming to America and while most of the attention is on the huge clash between India and Pakistan at New York's 34,000-seater Nassau County International Cricket Stadium on 9 June, there are other matches of interest. The tournament opener is a historic North American affair as the hosts play Canada at Grand Prairie in Dallas, the scene of Major League Cricket’s successful opening in July last year. Almost forgotten in the flurry of breaking news is the Broward County Stadium in Florida (now renamed Central Broward Park & Broward County Stadium) the third venue of the three Stateside facilities.

According to the Mayor of Lauderhill, Richard Kaplan, was adamant about his ambition to develop the game of cricket in the city. “There isn't a lot that distinguishes Lauderhill from many other cities. Cricket is going to put us on the map. Some day Lauderhill is going to be known as the cricket capital of the United States,” said Kaplan, who has written a book on the history of the game in the U.S.

In 2007, the project within the Central Broward Park complex was completed at a construction cost of $70 million. It became the first U.S. based cricket venue to be officially certified by the International Cricket Council and in 2010 hosted its first international between Sri Lanka and New Zealand

There were a few parochial difficulties when the stadium came under fire from local media and South Florida tax-paying residents for being too passive in its primary purpose. The main broadsheet of the county, The Sun Sentinel, ran a headline "Broward Built It, But Cricket Hasn't Come" as other sports like women’s football, World Cup rugby qualifiers and a semi-pro gridiron league used the facility instead. Kaplan himself wrote a stern letter to ICC Chief Executive David Richardson in 2013, criticizing the USA Cricket Association for failing to promote the stadium for marquee cricket matches.
"After several years of under utilization by our sanctioning cricket body USACA, the City of Lauderhill and Broward County have had to look at other alternative uses for the stadium that will sell tickets to fill seats," the mayor wrote at the time.
Eventually, things improved with more high-profile visitors. In 2016, India played their first series in the U.S. against the West Indies at Lauderhill with both matches sold out and the Men in Blue coach Anil Kumble lavish in his praise of the facilities. “It is a great coincidence that the audience strength for the first ever international matches being played by Team India in the U.S. is the same as the turnout for America’s cricket match with Canada in 1844, the first international sporting event of the modern world,” boomed the President of the BBCI. The lucrative Caribbean Premier League also used the stadium for its group stages.
As the competition approaches, Broward County stands to receive an estimated 45,000 visitors, bucked by the fact that two of the four matches set to be played there involve the two mega cricketing nations, India and Pakistan, who have attracted a TV audience of over 400 million at previous 50-over World Cup events. The national team are also playing against the Irish. As a trailer to the main event, a 400-pound, 8-foot tall replica of the official T20 World Cup cricket ball will tour various locations around Greater Fort Lauderdale.
Last month it was announced that Central Broward Park and Broward County Stadium would undergo an $8.4 million renovation project in time to improve the infrastructure before it hosts its first ever World Cup game between Sri Lanka and Nepal on 11 June. "We're building out to around 8,150 seats. Then on top of that, we will also have a third party come in and build temporary seating to make it to around 10,000 to 12,000 seats.

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