It’s the world’s third most-watched sporting event behind only the FIFA World Cup and the Tour de France. And come June, portions of the beloved T20 Cricket World Cup tournament will be played right here in Eisenhower Park.
Nassau County announced plans to bring the International Cricket Council tournament to Long Island last fall after plans to build a temporary stadium in the Bronx fell through. And now — less than six months before the games are set to start — officials have unveiled renderings for a temporary, modular stadium, expected to accommodate up to 35,000 fans.
“When the International Cricket Committee reached out to us about six months ago, I’m going to be perfectly honest: I didn’t know very much about cricket,” County Executive Bruce Blakeman told reporters last week. “I had no idea just how popular it was.”
Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world behind soccer, and was introduced in the United Kingdom during the 16th century. It has since grown in immense popularity in South Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Southern Africa and the West Indies — many parts of the globe that have been influenced by British imperialism over the centuries.
The upcoming tournament will have games played not only in East Meadow, but also in Dallas as well as southern Florida. The rest of the tournament will be played in the West Indies.
The ICC told Blakeman while 250 million people may tune in to watch the Super Bowl every year, the cricket audience is larger by about a billion people, while other estimates say viewership for cricket is actually a lot closer to 2.6 billion.
The tournament is expected to bring international attention to Nassau, which will host a number of international dignitaries from the countries playing games at Eisenhower, like Pakistan, India, Canada and Bangladesh. It is also expected to generate a large amount of revenue for the county.
“What an opportunity for Nassau County to showcase to over a billion people throughout the world our beautiful park — all our parks, our beaches,” Blakeman said. “We have everything here in Nassau County to showcase. We’re selling Nassau County as a destination.”
One of the most highly anticipated games of the tournament — India versus Pakistan — will be played in Eisenhower Park, Blakeman said. The countries consistently field some of the best players in the sport.
Harry Singh, the president and chief executive of Bolla Management Corp. — which operates a chain of convenience stores in the area — is serving as chair of the local host committee.
“Eisenhower Park has hosted some amazing events in the past — I think ICC should be proud they’re going to run their World Cup,” Singh said. “As an immigrant from India myself, I’m feeling super proud to be here today, standing in front of all of you … and making sure that we connect with the communities, that we connect with locals.
“It’s going to be an amazing event to watch. We’re looking forward to working with each of our community members and board members of this awesome community to make this a special event for all of us.”
Don Lockerbie, the T20 World Cup development director, said work has already begun to build the stadium. It’ll be constructed on the field directly across the road from The Lannin, and situated behind the park’s indoor swimming pools. Modular, temporary stadiums are not a new concept, he emphasized — golf and car racing events have utilized similar designs in past.
The stadium will be complete by spring, Lockerbie added.
“It is a temporary facility,” he said. “The ICC elected to do something large in the New York area. Working with Nassau County has been an absolute delight.”
Populous — an architecture firm that designed Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and the UBS Arena, among others — will design the Eisenhower Park stadium, Lockerbie said. While he was mum on how much the stadium would cost, Lockerbie said the entire initiative will be “privately funded,” with the structure disassembled by the end of July.
Blakeman noted concerns by some about safety and parking, but said the county is used to accommodating large events. Last summer, the park’s Harry Chapin Theatre was the venue for a Boyz II Men concert, which attracted 40,000 people.
There will be a number of park-and-ride programs set up in nearby lots, including one at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale.
Security will be provided by the county’s law enforcement services, primarily through the Nassau County Police Department.
“We are also working with other local agencies, and our federal partners will also be involved in the protection of everybody’s who at the stadium or on their way,” Blakeman said. “We will be ready for this major, major event, and it will have all the security measures that you would expect of an event like this, such as the Super Bowl.”
Tickets are not yet available to the public, and when they are, all will be handled by the ICC.
Those interested in attending or learning more about the tournament can visit NassauCountyNY.gov/cricket.