AirHogs Stadium in Dallas Is the Future Home of USA Cricket
USA Cricket will soon benefit from a new cricket facility, the AirHogs Stadium in Dallas. AirHogs Stadium is set to be acquired via a 15-year lease by American Cricket Enterprises (ACE), commercial T20 franchise league partner of USA Cricket. The 6000-seat facility, located in Grand Prairie, a suburb of Dallas, earlier served minor league baseball and soccer.
The stadium, built at a cost of $20 million in 2008, hosted an independent minor league baseball team called the Texas AirHogs. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the team, like many other minor league baseball teams, to go financially bust. Sameer Mehta, the co-founder of ACE, plans to use the facility to host a Major League Cricket franchise for a league scheduled to begin in 2022. He also envisions the stadium as becoming a high-performance centre to serve a USA national team and possibly the future “home of USA Cricket“.
ACE to Invest $10 Million for Renovation
The ACE got the opportunity to acquire the stadium after Major League Baseball had decided in the summer to call off the whole minor league season for all the franchises affiliated with the MLB. The ACE also plans to invest $10 million or more in renovating the stadium to prepare it to host ODIs on a turf wicket in the 2022 summer season. According to Paraag Marathe, Chairman of USA Cricket, it is a watershed moment for USA Cricket. He has expressed the hope that Grand Prairie would host World Cups and international events to find its place on the global map. Marathe expects the stadium to become one of the key cricketing venues of the USA that the rest of the world would identify USA Cricket with.
Past Failures Worry USA Cricket Officials
USA Cricket officials must be concerned that in the past, similar ventures in other cities had failed to live up to the hype and expectations. For instance, a $6 million investment in the Indianapolis World Sports Park went in vain after a three-year contract — from 2014 to 2016 — to host the USA Cricket National Championship had been annulled by city officials. Apart from an ICC Americas T20 championship in 2015, no other international cricket match was hosted at the venue. Ahead of the 2007 World Cup, the Broward County Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida gained approval to host warm-up games for the tournament. As things transpired, the venue that attracted an investment of $70 million opened only in 2008 before going on to host T20I games, such as between India and the West Indies, attracting crowds in excess of 12,000, in 2019. However, matches featuring the USA national team have failed to attract large crowds. A similar lack of crowd enthusiasm was experienced when Caribbean Premier League matches were held in Florida between 2016 and 2018.
Cause for Optimism
Marathe and Mehta are convinced that the Grand Prairie stadium will succeed in attracting crowds. To support his argument, Mehta cites the subscription base of 250,000 enjoyed by Willow TV, a cable TV cricket broadcaster, between Dallas and Houston. According to Marathe, the success of the venue must not be linked only to profits or attendance figures. Marathe is confident that the “great infrastructure around Airhogs Stadium” would help build the popularity of cricket and fan interest, in addition to growing viewership.
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