Atlanta is one of eight locations throughout the United States chosen for a stadium to host a professional cricket team. Yes, cricket, the game that is wildly popular in the United Kingdom, India and elsewhere in Asia, Britain, South Africa and the West Indies, but Atlanta and the U.S.?
Before questioning the seriousness of this initiative, consider that JLL Sports & Entertainment Group, which provided the real estate and advisory services for SunTrust Park and the adjacent mixed-use developed known as The Battery, is to assist in the development of the stadium and mixed use projects in each of eight selected states including, in addition to Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Florida, Texas, Illinois and California.
David Demarest, international director at JLL, a Fortune 500 company with reportedly annual fee revenue of $5.2 billion and operations in 80 countries, said in a July 13 release that the stadiums are to cost between $70-125 million with surrounding development adding an additional $80-100 million.
“We will leverage the overall JLL services platform together with our experience with the Braves and other sports development assignments,” he added in the release. “Each cricket-anchored development will create hundreds of temporary and permanent jobs to the local economies and enhance the overall infrastructure for each community.”
The main driver behind the initiative is Jignesh “Jay” Pandya, president and CEO of Global Sports Ventures LLC, a Pennsylvania-based group that last year reached a $70 million licensing agreement with the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) to bring a franchised Twenty20 (T20) league to the U.S. The T20 league plays a shortened version of the game that lasts only about three hours and is recognized by the International Cricket Council.
Mr. Pandya told Global Atlanta in a phone interview that his team conducted extensive research about the prospects for support of a professional cricket team, adding “Atlanta here we come!”
He said that he hopes Atlanta will be one of the first cities to have a stadium devoted to cricket and is convinced that professional cricket will become a reality in the U.S.
America ranks only behind India in global cricket viewership on television for world matches due to the country’s burgeoning South Asian populations and he underscored that after soccer cricket is the most watched sport in the world.
In published reports, he has said that the first stage of birthing the league will be its real estate phase with the selection of appropriate venues. If city, state and township officials oblige, he added, the process of developing a professional team and building out the stadiums should take only about two or three years with a completion date in 2020.
Funding is to come from private investors, or as with other sports franchises, by way of cities putting up the money. Mr. Pandya also anticipates that American broadcasters will be interested, citing ESPN’s “Cricket Pass” and coverage of World Cups. In the phone interview, he said that he was impressed with the initial enthusiasm his research teams found about the initiative from a wide range of city, county and state officials as well as members of the Asian community.
Grassroots interest in cricket already is visible in the Atlanta area with about 1,500 players participating in the Atlanta Cricket League that was launched over a decade ago and includes 120 teams who play “hard tennis ball cricket” matches between March and October.
There also is a “Kids Cricket” program in the summer months for players ranging from 6-to-15 years old. A high school league was launched last year.
For more information, contact Adrienne Heintz at 404 384 2210 or send an email to Adrienne. Heintz@wilbertcompany.com