Cricket Politics Still On, Though Tournament Is Gone
(photo courtesy Broward.org)
The National Cricket Championships may not be happening in Indy, but the political fight isn't over.
Mayor Ballard's office announced late Friday afternoon that the city canceled it's three year contract with the USA Cricket Association (USACA) to host the national tournament at Indy's new World Sports Park off Post road on the city's eastside. Ballard told WIBC host Abdul-Hakim Shabazz it was because USACA hadn't said much of anything to city officials to help plan for the August tournament since its CEO, Darren Beazley, resigned in March. "We had a great thing going on with Darren Beazley. Everything was going very smoothly, but once he left, the communications and the relationship deteriorated," Ballard said.
USACA begs to differ. Though no USACA officials have responded to calls and emails, the group issued a press release announcing a new location for the national championships - Broward County, Florida, home to the only cricket field in the U.S. certified by the International Cricket Council. It was just last year that the mayor of Lauderhill, Florida, Richard Kaplan, told me in an interview that it was almost impossible to get USACA to sanction matches there, and that his government was studying plans to redevelop the cricket stadium for other uses. USACA's statement also blamed Indianapolis for the failure of the tournament here. "No significant funding sources had been identified to recognize the high costs of hosting a tournament in Indianapolis," read the statement.
Ballard's spokesman, Marc Lotter, told me on Friday that it was USACA who hadn't helped the city secure potential sponsors for the tournament. While USACA claims it had an appointed project manager for the tournament with "frequent meetings and open lines of communication," that manager wasn't named publicly until last Tuesday - three days before the city canceled the contract.
The city spent $6 million in Rebuild Indy money to convert the old Post Road Community Park to the World Sports Park - the cricket fields have been completed, with the entire facility scheduled to be ready by early August. Democrats on the City-County Council didn't think it was money well-spent at the time, an opinion hardened by the canceling of the national tournament. "We're in the middle of a violent crime wave, and I think folks would like to see the mayor spend his time and effort on that rather than attempting to bring a cricket tournament to the city that was ultimately not successful," said council vice president John Barth. "Anyone who took the time to do their due diligence would have seen that USACA has had organizational problems and administrative problems for years."
Ballard laughs off the criticism, "there's so many holes in that argument, it's unbelievable. First of all, why don't they want playing fields in parks? (It used to be) weeds and grass." The mayor says the park was not built simply to lure USACA's cricket championship to Indy but to host other sports like lacrosse and rugby, and he cites the regional hurling tournament held there last year. "We brought in heads into beds. We had people from Atlanta, Columbus, Chicago. They came in, stayed in the city of Indianapolis and played a weekend hurling tournament, so we know the model works."
Barth would not call renovating the park a waste of money, though last year council Democrats passed a bill to spend another $6 million from Rebuild Indy to hire new police officers. It was vetoed by Ballard. But Barth and other Democrats believe the pursuit of the cricket tournament was definitely a distraction. "This involved hundreds of hours of staff time, and that's staff time that hasn't been spent on other priorities of the city."