Cricket brings Nassau into the international spotlight


Like almost every Long Islander, until recently I had no knowledge of or interest in cricket. Now that the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Eisenhower Park has been such a success, I can certainly attest to the intense devotion and loyalty cricket fans have to their sport, how popular cricket is in other corners of the world and why it was such a great victory for Nassau County to host the tournament, drawing worldwide attention and acclaim.

I had the opportunity, early on, to observe up close the effort that went into making the World Cup the success that it became. The anticipated difficulties and challenges were many and complex. For starters, a 34,000-seat stadium had to be constructed at Eisenhower Park in barely three months before the first official match on June 3. The hastily built structure, put together like an Erector Set, then had to be deconstructed and removed within 10 days after the Long Island phase of the tournament concluded on June 12.

The construction of the stadium was only the beginning. There were the almost certain traffic jams expected on Hempstead Turnpike and surrounding streets during the morning rush hour. The park would open at 8:30 a.m., and the starting time for each match would be 10:30. Cars would have to be parked at the Nassau Coliseum. The main entrance to Eisenhower Park would be off Merrick Avenue, and would be reached by thousands of fans either on foot — a walk of over a half-mile from the Coliseum — or by shuttle bus.

There were also myriad terrorism-related issues, which required having enough magnetometers to scan everyone entering the park, doing background checks on all vendors and their employees, and monitoring and tracking down all possible terrorist threats. This potential danger was amplified when, just days before the first practice match on June 1, ISIS posted a threat on social media calling for an attack on the World Cup.

Fortunately, County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder had initiated a sophisticated counterterrorism effort months earlier, involving federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies — the Nassau County Police Department, the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Police and the NYPD as well as Suffolk County, MTA, Port Authority and Garden City police working seamlessly together. At the facility itself, there were helicopters overhead, undercover officers and bomb-sniffing dogs on the ground, and sharpshooters strategically positioned around the stadium.

When the time came, everything worked. The intense planning paid off. There were no security incidents or traffic jams. The India-Pakistan match alone drew a capacity crowd of 34,000 — the largest ever for a cricket match in the United States — and more than a billion television viewers worldwide, more than three times the size of a Super Bowl audience. There were watch parties at Citi Field and Cedar Creek Park, in Wantagh. All told, the matches attracted more than 150,000 enthusiastic fans who enjoyed themselves and rooted their teams on without incident.

Increased business at restaurants, hotels, motels, stores and shops brought in tens of millions of dollars in sales and lodging tax revenues. Probably most important, though, will be the intangible but very real value of Nassau County’s success on the world stage before a previously unreached audience. Taking on this challenge and getting it done is a credit to Blakeman’s leadership and the professionalism of the NCPD and its law enforcement partners. Job well done! 

Peter King is a former congressman, and a former chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Comments? pking@