Believe it or not: Grand Prairie to become hub for sport of cricket in United States

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Peter Nevill, captain of the Blues, is caught during day four of the Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Queensland at Karen Rolton Oval on Nov. 2, 2020 in Adelaide, Australia. - Mark Brake/Getty Images AsiaPac/TNS

This assignment was ripe for a light-hearted look at the unlikely union of the state of Texas and the sport of cricket, which has some similarities with baseball but at the same time is as foreign as the countries where it thrives.

Major League Cricket coming to, of all places, Grand Prairie, Texas, seems like it would be full of yuks. Add that the franchise will take over AirHogs Stadium, a minor-league baseball site, the jokes should write themselves.

But a few not-so-funny things happened, one being the realization that a reporter can’t write jokes about something he knows nothing about.

More importantly, though, is that this is no joke to the city of Grand Prairie, MLC, USA Cricket and cricket fans across the world.

As funny as it sounds — the second most popular sport in the world coming to an area where the word cricket creates visions of insects swarming homes, damaging crops and keeping people awake at night — everyone involved is deadly serious about cricket thriving in Grand Prairie and the U.S.

MLC believes there are 125,000 cricket fans apiece in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.

“We believe that if we provide them a great experience, a family-friendly experience to showcase this beautiful sport in the manner it’s supposed to, these fans will latch on very, very quickly,” said Sameer Mehta, a co-founder of MCL.

“Our view is that let’s start off with something between 8,000-10,000 capacity, which is scale-able; make sure it’s an extremely, extremely wonderful for the fans who come in; make sure that the product is great, which means international players coming down to Dallas, relocating in the Dallas metro area, engaging with the community and then really showcasing their skills.”

No one on the Zoom call Wednesday with Grand Prairie officials and league brass were hearing crickets.

AirHogs Stadium will be reconfigured into a 10,000-seat flagship cricket venue, with a price tag of around $10 million, over the next year. It will serve as the home for the Texas team in MLC, which will launch in 2022, and also be the hub for USA Cricket and a potential host site for international matches and the World Cup.

The Texas AirHogs minor league baseball team recently terminated its membership with the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.

City officials can see potential economic windfalls in the millions, with commercial development also taking off in the form of hotels and office buildings. Grand Prairie is planning a Cricket 101 marketing campaign that will educate and lead to youth cricket leagues.

“We saw this with soccer and lacrosse, most recently, and I think we’re going to follow that same model,” said Steve Dye, the Deputy City Manager and COO of Grand Prairie. “We have already a very extensive fan base of cricket in the Metroplex, but we’re going to simultaneously start youth programs and youth development in partnership with Major League Cricket. … I think this is just the beginning.”

Journalists from Australia, the United Arab Emirates, India and England participated in the Zoom call, and the level of knowledge in their questions amplified how big of a deal this is within the sport.

Apparently, it’s vital that cricket be played on natural grass instead of artificial turf, so much so that natural turf will be required in all league venues.

Investors, made up of companies that are well-known, have been secured and will be announced going forward.

MCL is working to host international series with Canada or teams in the West Indies in Grand Prairie, and hopes to be able to announce that a World Cup is coming.

“We’ve situated our league in the calendar window that fits very nicely in the global calendar for international leagues,” USA Cricket chairman Paraag Marathe said. “We did that very deliberately with the hope that if the right partnerships materialize we can host other players and individuals from other countries.”

And Grand Prairie, at the soon-to-be-renamed AirHogs Stadium, is the U.S. epicenter of it all.

Insert joke here, though this is no joke to all involved.

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