New York’s Eisenhower Park unlikely to host any international games before T20 World Cup

Eisenhower Park in New York will not be hosting any international matches before the T20 World Cup in June, as the ground will be ready only by the end of May. The venue is slated to host three of India’s matches in the upcoming tournament.

Announcing detailed plans on Wednesday for the New York venue, which will become first modular stadium in cricket, the ICC also said tickets for the 20-team World Cup, which will be co-hosted in the West Indies and the USA, will be the released in the next fortnight.

Eisenhower Park, which is located in Nassau County (Long Island), and is about 25 miles east of New York City, was recently shortlisted by the ICC as one of the three venues in the USA along with Grand Prairie (Texas) and Broward County (Lauderhill, Florida) to host 16 group phase matches. Half of those matches – eight – will be hosted at Eisenhower Park, including the India-Pakistan match on June 9.

While the first match at the New York venue is scheduled on June 3 – between South Africa and Sri Lanka – the ICC has planned to carry out the testing phase of the ground, including the drop-in pitches, in the second half of May. It will likely be the first time a major ICC event will be played at a venue where no international match has been held before.

Such a prospect is not making the ICC anxious at all, though. Chris Tetley, ICC’s head of events, said that the testing phase, scheduled to start in the week of May 13 and will include warm-up matches, will provide the organisers better understanding of the venue before the World Cup matches start.

“There will be warm-up matches played at the facility (New York) so that we know from a cricket perspective how the venue runs,” Tetley said. “Also, importantly, we will know from an operational perspective how all of the functional teams that will come together to run the stadium need to interact on an event day with people coming through the turnstiles.

“Part of that is understanding how do people come through the turnstiles and where do they go, how do they use the venue, where do they walk? Because that will then help us refine plans on spectator flows and where we need additional signage, where people get confused, where do they congregate?”

Currently the outfield at existing cricket venue at Eisenhower Park is “bumpy” Tetley admitted, but he also said the work to create the stadium had started this month with a timeline of finishing the project by mid-May when the testing phase will begin.

A set of drop-in pitches are currently being prepared in Florida by Adelaide Oval Turf Solutions, which is headed by Damian Hough, the head groundsperson at Adelaide Oval. The outfield, meanwhile, is being manufactured by LandTek Group, a USA-based turf making business which have prepared playing fields for the New York Yankees, New York Mets, and Inter Miami CF.

In addition, Populous, a globally renowned architecture and design firm has been hired to plan the stadium at Eisenhower Park, which will seat about 34,000 fans. Having such trusted hands involved, Tetley pointed out, gave the ICC the “reassurance” and confidence that any last-minute hiccup could be cleared without stress.

“In addition to testing events that gives us a lot of reassurance is the quality of the people involved and the quality of the work that they do day in, day out: from Damian (Hough) on the pitches and the number of pitches he’s building, which gives us a bit of flex in case one of the pitches doesn’t go as well as we want, we can shift around so that we’re not reliant on you know, a no latency solution there.

“LandTek are working hand in glove with Damian on all of the agronomy aspects of the facility. From a cricket perspective, they are the ones that we are most keenly interested in ensuring over the right quality, because that’s fundamental.”

MLC looking at using modular stadium

A modular stadium is made up of steel and aluminium, erected in a short period of time (about three months in the case of Eisenhower Park) and is customisable. The amenities in a regular cricket ground can be replicated easily including fans seating, corporate boxes, dressing rooms and all other hospitality avenues and general amenities alongside media and broadcast facilities.

Formula One has widely used modular stadia across the globe and part of the infrastructure used during the Las Vegas Grand Prix recently will be deployed in the construction of stands at Eisenhower Park. Golf has utilised modular stands including at the Ryder Cup last year in Rome.

The ICC will utilise modular stadium solutions to double the capacity also at the two other US venues for the T20 World Cup – in Texas and Florida. Post the World Cup, Tetley said the modular stadia can be brought down easily.

However, Tetley pointed out that Major League Cricket (MLC) was “evaluating” whether it could utilise the modular stadia at the three USA venues for the second season which is scheduled for July-August.

“MLC is actually very interested in the opportunity that this would afford them to play some of the matches of their second season. So they’re evaluating at the moment whether it will work for them. It’s a live conversation at the moment, but in theory, yes, it gets all broken down.”

Tetley said the key “legacy” the World Cup will leave for the local cricket community in New York would be an international outfield alongside a well-equipped central square sans the drop-in pitches.

“One of the legacies of the project is that what we will leave behind a world class cricket outfield to international standards. We’ll actually take out the drop-in pitches and leave them with an artificial surface in the middle there because that will be much easier for them to maintain.

“The drop in pitches, we will work out where they go and to whom will best benefit from them. We’re obviously creating training facilities as well that will be left behind.”

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo

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