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Saturday, Jun 10, 2023

Cricket League Plots 10K+ Seat Venue in Irvine

Officials at an upstart sports league targeting the country’s growing base of cricket fans tell the Business Journal that they expect to spend well north of $10 million to build a new sports venue at Irvine’s Great Park, and say they are optimistic the facility could host cricket matches for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Major League Cricket (MLC) last week got city approval to move ahead on lease negotiations and design approvals to build what they say will be a “world-class” cricket venue on a 15-acre parcel at the city-owned Great Park.

The stadium would be among the largest cricket facilities in the country, with a planned capacity of 10,000 that could be increased for major international events, MLC officials said.

The facility would be home to MLC’s Southern California-based franchise, “in the heart of one of the largest cricket-loving populations in the United States,” the league said last week.

Six to eight teams are expected for the new league at its start. Other reported locations are in Texas, North Carolina, San Jose and the Seattle area.

MLC said earlier this year it aims to have “several cricket-specific venues ready for play by 2024.”

The Business Journal last December was first to report that the league was in closed-door meetings with the city of Irvine for a new stadium, on land along Great Park Boulevard, near a baseball complex on the eastern edge of what’s been built to date on the Great Park grounds.

‘Iconic’ SoCal Home

Last week’s city approval establishes a 12-month timeline for both MLC and the city of Irvine to agree to terms and get the approvals required for the construction of the stadium.

The architectural firm HKS has been chosen to “design an iconic home for the sport in the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area,” MLC said last week.

The stadium plans include “state-of-the-art training facilities, locker rooms, luxury suites, dedicated parking, concessions, field lighting and an international-grade pitch to meet International Cricket Council (ICC) accreditation and allow the venue to host the highest level of international cricket competition,” the league said in a statement.

In addition to hosting large national and international tournaments, the league is hopeful that Irvine could play a part in the 2028 Olympics, if cricket is added as a new sport.

Cricket isn’t on the docket for the Los Angeles games, yet, but the ICC is said to be lobbying hard for its inclusion.

League officials express optimism, especially given India’s interest in the sport as the country begins lobbying to host an Olympics of its own in the coming years.

If the lobbying proves successful, the stadium at the Great Park “is expected to be a centerpiece venue for the [2028] event in Southern California,” MLC said last week.

The league estimates there are about 100,000 cricket fans in Orange County, with an additional 200,000 fans in Los Angeles.

Bollywood Backers

The league’s backers count deep pocketed execs from Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other Silicon Valley tech firms, among other businesses.

The Irvine location has some additional significant star power, in terms of backers.

Support for the Irvine project comes from the Knight Riders Group, which owns two big pro cricket teams, Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, and Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League.

The local investment is led by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, along with actress Juhi Chawla and her businessman husband Jay Mehta—the trio are also co-owners of Knight Riders—the league said.

Their backing “is part of a strategic long-term investment by the group in the future of cricket in the United States,” MLC said.

“Our investment in MLC in America is based on our belief in the exciting future of cricket in the USA and is well aligned to our strategy of establishing Knight Riders as a global brand in T20 cricket,” Khan said in a statement provided to the Business Journal.

“Plans to build a world-class cricket stadium in the greater Los Angeles area is exciting for us and MLC. This will no doubt have a transformational impact for cricket in one of the world’s most iconic metropolitan destinations.” 

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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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