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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Cricket League: OC Could Host Olympic Matches

A new sports league targeting the country’s growing base of cricket fans is still looking to place one of its first facilities in Orange County, with an eye on potentially using the local venue, believed to be at Irvine’s Great Park, for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Major League Cricket (MLC) last month disclosed timelines for multiple facility developments for its fledgling league, with “the aim of having several cricket-specific venues ready for play by 2024.”

The Grand Prairie, Texas-based league said it aims to begin matches next year, with plans to build several new facilities across the country as it ramps up operations and builds visibility.

Reports indicate the league, whose backers include deep-pocketed execs from Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other Silicon Valley tech firms, among other businesses, plans to spend nearly $110 million on building or renovating venues around the country, including one in OC.

Its first venue, in Grand Prairie, will begin construction this month, the league said.

That spot, a retrofitted baseball stadium, will have between 15,000 and 20,000 seats and be finished next year. Other locations in the works will have between 4,000 and 15,000 seats, according to a March 17 announcement.

Another spot in Houston and a location in North Carolina are expected to move ahead soon after the Grand Prairie project kicks off, MLC said.

2024 Tournament

MLC’s goal is to open several facilities in time for a notable international competition.

In 2024, the U.S. will co-host the T20 World Cup, a major men’s cricket tournament that’s expected to bring more attention to the new league.

MLC “will feature top international cricketers from around the globe, and provide a stage for domestic cricketers to showcase their talents to a global audience,” the league says.

Irvine Negotiations

In addition, to “develop venues for its franchises as soon as possible, MLC is accelerating timelines for new cricket facility construction projects” in San Jose, King Country, Wash., and Orange County, it said. The venues will “provide first-class homes for the sport in future years, with the potential for completion by 2024,” the league said.

It didn’t specify in last month’s announcement where in OC it was looking to build.

The Business Journal last December was first to report that the league was in closed-door meetings with the city of Irvine for a nearly 50-acre parcel of land off Great Park Boulevard.

Terms of the local deal, and the ultimate size of the Irvine project, haven’t been disclosed yet. The league declined to comment last week about the status of the Irvine negotiations.

Olympic Option?

MLC noted last month the potential OC cricket venue “could serve to host Major League Cricket and other international events, including cricket if the sport is included at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.”

Cricket, said to be the world’s second-most watched sport behind soccer, hasn’t been an Olympic sport since 1900. It is currently not among the provisional list of sports for the 2028 Games, but cricket’s main international committee is reported to be lobbying to add it to the LA Games. A final decision is expected next year.

The Great Park has also been tapped as a potential base for water polo events at the 2028 Olympics, though construction on a proposed facility there has yet to move ahead.

USA Cricket counts “more than 150,000 regular players across the country, with roughly 20 million fans and more than 4 million regular viewers of cricket,” according to the new league. 

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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