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On April 9th, Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan sent a scathing letter to Divid Richardson, CEO of ICC, regarding the ICC certified CBRP cricket stadium in Lauderhill.
"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. As a result, Broward County is about to release an independent business plan which will advise government officials that it is time to consider a reconfiguration of the stadium to a sport that can better sustain the facility and provide an economic return."
The Mayor complained about USACA's unresponsiveness with sanctioning "international and commercial events that want to play at the stadium." Kaplan urged ICC to intercede and ensure that the $70 million stadium could be used for cricket on a regular long-term basis.
"We implore you to assist us with either considering some other means of holding international games without being held hostage by one uninterested and incapable governing body, or guarantee us some long term plan whereby we can establish a calendar of international events that would help us sustain the facility as it is now," the Mayor wrote.
When reached for comment, Darren Beazley, CEO of USACA, acknowledged that an approach was made to USACA by an international cricket body but no written proposal had been send. "CHALLC controls these rights and the matter was referred onto that group. On no fewer than four occasions, USACA and more recently CHALLC, have requested a formal proposal from the representative. That has not been forthcoming." CHALLC is the short name for Cricket Holdings America, which is the rights owner for certain commercial rights.
In an email dated April 17, 2013, Mayor Kaplan reiterated that the proposal was submitted to USACA by Jeff Miller, the Chair and Marketing Director of Broward County's Cricket Advisory Committee. "It is surprising that numerous other international teams are aware of the proposal and want to go forward to play, but not USACA," the Mayor wrote.
The Mayor also insisted that he had spoken to the Gladstone Dainty. "I requested that the local group have an opportunity to present it directly to the Board. The President refused to answer request." Gladstone Dainty is the President of USACA and Chairman of CHALLC.
In response to a direct query from DreamCricket.com, Neil Maxwell, CEO of CHALLC, noted, "I have spoken to most of the Board members and we are not aware of any official proposals to play ICC sanctioned cricket in Miami."
Notwithstanding the friction between the organizations, both Maxwell and Beazley were supportive of Lauderhill's desire to host ICC approved matches.
"CHALLC is in favour of ICC approved matches being played in the US. Naturally these need to be coordinated to complement existing plans and not disadvantage USACA or CHALLC in developing its properties. We have encouraged matches in the past and will continue to do so. The West Indies v. New Zealand fixtures were testament to this," Maxwell wrote.
USACA's Beazley was similarly supportive. "The Lauderhill Stadium is a good venue and I am sure that once the nets that USACA has been discussing with the County are installed and the pitch becomes more consistent, the opportunities for first class teams to utilize it as a preseason training base will increase. A permanent media center is also required if the venue is to attract regular matches."
On the topic of repurposing the stadium for another sport, Beazley wrote: "The loss of the stadium would be very disappointing for the sport of cricket. USACA obviously wants the stadium to prosper and to be a place for the game to be played at for many years to come."
"I believe that the Mayor has the best intentions for the County at heart and I am confident that by cricket in the US developing a strategic approach for the next five years and the County working with cricket, it may be possible to increase the number of higher profile cricket events at Lauderhill Stadium. Whether that would be enough to meet the commercial requirements of the Stadium and the County I couldn’t say, but as I said to Mayor Kaplan when I met him in early February, I will do all can to develop the game in the US and assist him. That offer still stands."
Beazley noted that he fully understood how difficult things were for single sport facilities. "The WACA Ground only hosts cricket nowadays and from personal experience, I know just how hard it is to make the commercial business case solely on the back of cricket, even in a cricket mad market such as Western Australia." Saying that it was not easy to make US a part of regular, long term cricket calendar, Beazley emphasized the need for a professional approach.
"USACA will work with CHALLC to achieve the long term goal of securing facilities capable of hosting first class cricket throughout the country, not just in Florida. I don’t think that any of your readers will be surprised that the long term objective is to complement Lauderhill via securing venues in the north east and on the west coast," he wrote.
Other cricket stakeholders were similarly appreciative of Lauderhill's role in development of cricket. The USA Friendship Cup organization, which used the stadium in March, wrote a note of support. "Currently, the only facility in the USA that is approved by the ICC for use in Twenty20 and ODI matches is the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida. Every year annual March tournament and few more planned tournaments will be played at this ICC certified venue," the organization noted in an email sent by Siva Narapareddy.
Support for the Mayor also came from the American Cricket Federation, which is committed to conducting its tournaments on turf wickets. Its 2012 tournament, which drew participation by leagues that were disqualified from USACA, was played on the turf wickets at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, California.
In a media release, ACF noted that cricket grounds were badly needed to support the sport's development. "We cannot afford to lose one, more so a flagship one as the CBRP. ACF is willing to play a constructive role and is supportive of any efforts to bring more cricket to Broward County and the CBRP,” Avinash Varma, a member of ACF's steering committee noted.
An uphill battle, 'a white elephant'
The stadium in Broward county has had an uphill battle every step of the way since the project was initially conceived. From the beginning, not everyone believed that it would succeed. Former Broward County commissioner Josephus Eggelletion did not mince words when he said, "The worst thing for this county to do would be to build a facility that begins to gather pigeon poop."
Others were more supportive, the stadium was supported enthusiastically by the large expatriate population that calls Lauderhill home. By 2003, the former West Indies cricketer Lance Gibbs, Yagga Rowe, Hazel Rogers (Jamaican councilwoman from an adjoining town) and Chandradath Singh (former T&T consul general) formed a World Cup 2007 committee. The city actually won the ICC designation as the official bid city but the bid was not successful.
However, it did not help matters that in March 2007, just ten days before the World Cup, USACA was suspended by the ICC for the second time in two years. When the stadium project was eventually completed in November of 2007, USACA was still in suspension.
Another year went by before the planets once again aligned for the stadium. In December 2008, the ICC certified the venue after reviewing stadium plans to construct certain amenities for players, umpires and officials. And yet, no matches were scheduled at the stadium throughout 2009.
“I am hopeful that real soon we will reward them [Lauderhill stadium] with cricket at the highest level," USACA President Gladstone Dainty told attendees at the USACA AGM in April, 2010. He was referring to the Pearls Cup T20 matches featuring Sri Lanka and New Zealand that were played in May 2010.
As lighting and pitch troubles plaqued the stadium, the Pearls Cup was not the perfect start. But it was still a turning point. In a DreamCricket.com editorial, it was called a proof of concept. As such, DreamCricket.com pronounced the tournament a success. The stadium's bad luck continued. There would be no international fixtures for two years followiing the proof of concept. Meanwhile, political and financial troubles at USACA ensured that domestic utilization was minimal during the time.
West Indies played two T20 matches against New Zealand on June 30 and July 1 of 2012. Leslie Johnson, spokesperson of Lauderhill was excited. "And I think it's far more reaching than we can even imagine. This is a dream come true for a lot of people who can't believe they're actually going to see this magnitude of cricket in this country. We've been hearing them plead. This community is hungry."
The stadium's prospects seemed bright with the launch of a professional T20 league in the US, talk of IPL teams visiting US and more neutral venue cricket. Nearly ten months later, none of these have materialized.