iNDICA News Bureau-
Major League Cricket (MLC), the first professional T20 league in the United States given exclusive sanction by the sport’s governing body in the country, USA Cricket, announced Friday the approval of an exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) with the City of Irvine to move forward with lease negotiations and design approvals to build a world-class cricket venue on a 15-acre parcel at Great Park in Orange County.
The development is expected to result in a multi-million-dollar investment by MLC for stadium construction, with MLC planning to engage internationally renowned architects HKS to design an iconic home for the sport in the Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.
The ENA was approved unanimously by the Irvine City Council April 26 and marks a milestone in development of the stadium.
The agreement outlines key dates and obligations over the next 12 months for both MLC and the City of Irvine to agree terms and the approvals required for the construction of a stadium with a planned capacity of 10,000 that can be further increased for major international events.
As the sport’s world governing body International Cricket Council’s member body for the U.S., USA Cricket has selected MLC as its exclusive partner to develop a professional Twenty20 cricket league. The Great Park stadium 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, a release from MLC said.
The proposed development at Great Park is supported by the Knight Riders Group, owners of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the Indian Premier League and Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) in the Caribbean Premier League.
KRG is led by movie stars Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla with the latter’s husband Jay Mehta and is a founding investor in MLC. KRG will bring its experience from one of the more successful brands in global T20 cricket to MLC. The investment by KRG is part of a strategic long-term investment by the group in the future of cricket in the United States.
“Our investment in MLC in America is based on our belief in the exciting future of cricket in the USA and is aligned to our strategy of establishing Knight Riders as a global brand in T20 cricket,” Shah Rukh Khan said. “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.”
The stadium plan includes 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 norms and allow the venue to host the highest level of international cricket competition.
USA Cricket is expected to bid for future men’s and women’s World Cup tournaments, with the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in 2024 already set to be co-hosted by the United States and the West Indies. MLC will provide support for both the USA’s men’s and women’s teams, with the goal of elevating them to the highest level of international competition.
The ICC is pushing for the inclusion of cricket in the 2028 Olympic Games to be held in Los Angeles. If that happens, the stadium at Great Park is expected to be a centerpiece venue for the event.
“MLC is committed to building outstanding infrastructure for cricket in key markets accessible to legions of cricket-loving fans,” said Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan, MLC co-founders. “We are grateful to the City of Irvine for agreeing to explore this development in the heart of Orange County. Great Park’s position as a hub for community recreation and its array of first-class sports facilities makes it an ideal location for the addition of a venue serving the local cricket-loving community and the broader Greater Los Angeles region with major international cricket events set to take place there.”
Focused on staging world-class Twenty20 cricket for American cricket fans, MLC will feature top players from around the globe and provide a stage for domestic cricketers to showcase their talents to a global audience. MLC will feature teams in major cities across the country, deploying the best international talent alongside the best domestic players.
Great Park, originally developed as a U.S. Marine Corps air station, spans approximately 1,300 acres with more than 200 acres developed and 688 fully funded acres in planning and design phases. It is home to the landmark Great Park Balloon and significant multi-purpose sports and recreation facilities, including a 2,500 capacity Championship soccer stadium.
Great Park has become a central location for Southern California sports and fitness activities, with a sports complex featuring 24 soccer fields, a multipurpose recreation area, and a baseball and softball complex with 10 ball fields and two championship stadiums.
The City of Irvine is located in the heart of Orange County, home to more than three million people, including an estimated 100,000 cricket fans with a further 200,000 more located in nearby Los Angeles County.
Two Minor League Cricket teams, the SoCal Lashings and Hollywood Master Blasters, along with thriving local adult and youth leagues in the area provide a significant base of grassroots support for cricket in the region.