A 34,000-seat temporary stadium will be built in Eisenhower Park, a centerpiece of Nassau County's plan to host one of the largest and most-viewed international sporting events in the world, next year's cricket World Cup, officials said Wednesday.
The multiple-level modular facility will be made of steel and aluminum and constructed in a large, mostly open field behind the Aquatic Center and near the Harry Chapin Theatre, according to Nassau leaders and other officials at a news conference at the park attended by dozens of local cricket organizers and players.
The GOP-controlled Nassau County Legislature's Rules Committee is expected to approve a permit for the facility next month, officials said.
Existing venues in Grand Prairie, Texas and Broward County, Florida will be expanded as they also will play host to the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup 2024. The competition, which will be held June 4, 2024, through June 30, 2024, is being co-hosted by the United States and the West Indies.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Nassau County will build a 34,000-seat temporary stadium in Eisenhower Park as Long Island serves as a host venue for cricket’s World Cup.
- The multiple-level modular facility will be made of steel and aluminum and constructed in a large, mostly open field behind the Aquatic Center and near the Harry Chapin Theatre.
- Construction is set to begin at the end of January with completion around May, officials said. The competition runs from June 4, 2024, through June 30 in the United States and the West Indies.
It will be the first time the U.S. has hosted the international tournament in any form. The event will feature 20 men's national teams, including potentially, the U.S. team if it qualifies.
The International Cricket Council, the sport's governing body, will pay for the stadium. Construction is set to begin at the end of January with completion around May, officials said.
The county is negotiating a final contract with the ICC on the terms of the agreement, which would pay Nassau a yet-undecided sum for the use of the park and compensate law enforcement and first responders needed at the facility. County officials said construction of the stadium would not force the closure of any park facilities and would create hundreds of local jobs.
"It's a great boost in the economy for Long Island, especially in Nassau County," said Dorothy Roberts, president of the Long Island Hospitality Association, noting that organizers expect the cricket World Cup to attract visitors from across the globe.
"As far as the hospitality industry, it helps our hotels, restaurants and primarily small businesses."
New York City Mayor Eric Adams had publicly lobbied for the stadium to be built at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, home to the city's largest collection of cricket pitches, even hosting a rally with players at City Hall in July.
But Adams' plan was opposed by some elected officials, community advocates and local cricket players, who argued against turning over a vast swath of public land to a private entity in the middle of the local cricket season.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who admitted he was largely unfamiliar with the sport, said the ICC contacted him about two months ago asking if the county would host part of the tournament. Blakeman convened his staff within 48 hours and began shoring up legislative and community support.
"We're going to have thousands of visitors coming in. It's going to generate a tremendous amount of revenue," Blakeman said at the news conference. "It's an economic boom."
Cricket, which like baseball, is played with a bat and ball, dates back to at least the early 1600s and has its origins in England, is played between two teams of 11 players. Men's cricket is typically played in a large oval grass field with a diameter of 450 to 500 feet, making it incompatible for most football or baseball stadiums, officials said. There are no stadium-sized cricket fields in the metropolitan region that could be used for the World Cup, necessitating the construction of a temporary facility.
ICC Chief Executive Geoff Allardice said the council "explored a number of potential venue options" before settling on Long Island. After the competition, the venue will be taken down, officials said. The agreement with the ICC, Blakeman said, calls for the creation of permanent cricket fields at not only Eisenhower Park but other county facilities.
"In partnering with Nassau County, I think we found an organization that shares our vision and ambition for cricket in the United States," Allardice said in a video played at the news conference. "Northeast USA has a huge fan base for cricket."
Massively popular in countries such as India, Pakistan, and Australia, cricket boasts an estimated fan base of 2.5 billion people worldwide and is considered the second most popular global sport, behind soccer.
The 2022 Men's World Cup claimed a global television audience of 1.28 billion and 6.58 billion videos across all platforms, the ICC said, placing it behind only the Tour de France, the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in total viewers. The T20 cricket format is expected to be one of the sports added to the program for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
George Samuel, director and head coach of the Queens United Cricket Academy, estimates there are between 100,000 and 150,000 cricket fans in the New York-Long Island area, with roughly 1,000 teams playing across the region.
"I don’t think even 34,000 seats will be sufficient," Samuel said. "With the amount of fan base we have here in this area, all the games are going to be sold out.”
The Eisenhower stadium, Blakeman said, would host five tournament games although he is pushing to host the semifinals or finals as well. Multiple reports in the international news media have said the marquee match between India and Pakistan would likely be played at the Eisenhower Park stadium.
Nassau Parks Commissioner Darcy Maccarone Belyea said the construction would occur in stages, starting from the outside in, first building a three-level seating and media area, along with suites, restrooms and concessions. A new grass field, she said, would also be grown specific for the cricket tournament.
Parking, she said, will be available at Nassau Community College, Mitchel Field and the Nassau Coliseum, with visitors shuttled to the stadium.
Asim Malik, of the Long Island United Cricket Club, said bringing cricket's biggest stage to Nassau will influence an entire generation of future players.
"You can't even imagine how big of a role this will play in promoting cricket for the youngsters in our community," he said.
Mark Audain, a cricketer from Valley Stream, said "in order for cricket to grow, you have to have a good facility. And the youngsters can only progress with good facilities."
With John Valenti