Game on: Why site selection matters in bringing cricket to the US

Sports development company Global Sports Ventures plans to launch a professional U.S. cricket league complete with eight home teams to root for.

September 21, 2017

Cricket may be the world’s second most popular sport, but the beloved bat-and-ball game has historically flown under the radar in the U.S.

That could all change in 2020, however, when sports development company Global Sports Ventures plans to launch a professional U.S. cricket league—complete with eight home teams to root for.

The support from fans is already there; the U.S. is one of the largest audience bases for cricket in the world. Last year, 1.4 million U.S. households tuned in for the sport’s world championship match.

With realistic prospects of a built-in audience, Global Sports Ventures leaders are on the hunt for the right place to accommodate them.

“The fan base is certainly promising. But any pro sports team needs more than an interested public—it needs a superior venue that is well located,” says David Demarest, International Director at JLL Americas. “To ensure these future teams have those spaces, we are collectively exploring some critical first questions, including site specific feasibility and demand studies for both the stadium and planned surrounding mixed-use developments.”

Location is everything in this game

First things first, league organizers need to go where the fan base is already established, so the search is now underway for eight development sites in cities in California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

Within those states, however, the strategy becomes more complex. “Which cities or close-in suburban areas will offer the best mix of both audience and infrastructure potential? Those are critical questions to explore early on in the process,” says Demarest.

For starters, there’s the stadium itself to consider. Cricket fields are unique from more common U.S. pro sports fields in that the field is circular. The league is aiming to build stadiums that will seat about 20,000-25,000 fans.

But the league will need more than just a few large sites on which to build. “The immediate surrounding area is as important as the subject property,” says Demarest. “We know that stadiums are giving mixed-use developments a winning edge—and for a new sports league, the benefits are symbiotic, with the key basics accomplishing the proper combination of mixed use elements to meet market demand in the area and taking advantage of the built in patronage that the stadium traffic provides.”

With such amenities in mind, the league is indeed out to build not just a series of standalone stadiums, but rather stadiums that are themselves part of a larger, more bustling environment complete with restaurants, hotels, retail, residential and office space. For fans and stadium owners alike, mixed-use developments help shape experiences that go well beyond the game, from vibrant, walkable green spaces to diverse dining options.

Of course these massive developments don’t fund themselves. The stadiums are expected to cost $70 million to $100 million, with ancillary costs of $80 million to $100 million for the mixed-use developments accompanying the cricket stadiums. Tax credits and incentives are therefore a necessary part of the project’s success. Armed with an economic impact study that outlines the potential benefit to cities—from hundreds of new local jobs to enhanced community amenities—Global Sports Ventures can show the municipality what impact the stadium will have on the community in terms of jobs, dollars and more.

Business intelligence wins the day

Jignesh “Jay” Pandya, who chairs Global Sports Ventures, has acknowledged the plan to open the first stadium by January 2020 is “ambitious.”

“Ambitious isn’t unrealistic when you have the right tools and team on your side,” says Demarest. “Deep data, sophisticated analytics and an experienced set of partners can turn the vision of a U.S. home for pro cricket into a reality.”

For example, sophisticated corporate real estate technology can give league leaders the chance to take a virtual market tour that visually integrates every relevant data point for super-charged site selection strategy. That can include high-level macroeconomic trends, like workforce demographics, tax incentives and access to transit; combined with planned development layers, like renderings of how the stadium and surrounding development might look; and property analytics and tax incentive maps.

The U.S. Cricket League has a bold vision for the sport. With strong visualization tools to inform highly strategic site selection, it won’t be long before cricket’s growing U.S. fan base can have new pitch-perfect stadiums in which to support for their new favorite players.