By Orin Davidson
As the drive to boost cricket facilities in New York intensifies, successful discussions were had at a recent meeting among key stakeholders Hiren Chauhan, owner of Empire State Titans team, Ajith Bhaskar, Cricket USA Director and a representative of the American Cricket Enterprise (ACE), who met with politicians Staten Island Borough President James Oddo and New State Assemblyman Charles Fall.
Among the matters discussed was the need for New York to acquire that elusive first cricket stadium while spreading and developing the sport here in general was also looked at.
The meeting lasted for more than and one hour and Chauhan said Oddo and Fall were happy to be apprised of the needs of the sport here and pledged full support to make cricket realize its full potential.
Given the magnitude of plan for the cricket stadium, Chauhan said they were promised help to acquire follow up meetings with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, the Economic Development Corporation and another Government agencies to speed up the process
According to Chauhan, Staten Island comes to mind first for the location of the stadium, due to the non use of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark baseball facility which was home of the now defunct Staten Island Yankees.
The team was cut as one of the famed New York Yankees minor league outfits last year and Chauhan feels the facility would be ideal to be converted into one for cricket.
He said they plan to explore possibilities for the project in all of New York including Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.
Both Oddo and Fall are sports enthusiasts with the former, a decades long public servant with a passion for baseball while the latter played college basketball before winning the election to serve in the 61st district in 2019.
Cricket USA, the United States governing body for the sport of which Bhaskar is one of the movers and shakers, has tipped New York as vital in the thrust of the powerful International Cricket Council (ICC), the world’s ruling organization, to make America cricket’s next power-house nation given the massive potential here.
Financial backing for the project is not a problem, Chauhan disclosed, adding that he does not have a borough preference, but feels the cricket fraternity here would be happy to have the stadium built anywhere, given the urgent need.
Cricket being a primarily immigrant sport has never had the required support for infrastructure, but it has grown tremendously in popularity the last five years due to increased immigration.
More than two thousand residents compete among 300 clubs in the five boroughs, the largest concentration of active players in the United States. The sport is played in a few schools in the city as well. Competitions are staged in public parks, but without adequate seating accommodation it is difficult to organize series with International teams from established cricket countries.
So far the Central Froward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Florida is the lone cricket specific stadium in the United States.
“The intention is for us to build a facility capable of hosting competitions of an international nature featuring the world’s best teams here in New York”, Chauhan emphasizes.
And with plans in place for a mega-dollars Major League competition with representative franchise teams from throughout the United States, there is a dire need to have the requisite facility in the “Big Apple”.
Chauhan’s Empire State Titans happens to be the New York franchise chosen by Cricket USA, this country’s ruling body, to represent the state in all such competitions.
Outside of cricket, Chauhan, an immigrant of India, is a successful Internet Technology entrepreneur and his businesses have pioneered the rise of various technologies including Cloud, Big Data and Block Chain over the years. He was honored with the Long Island Business News (LIBN) Diversity award in 2020 as well as by the New York State Assembly for his exceptional entrepreneurial spirit.
Empire State Cricket LLC, a company Chauhan founded is the parent company under which Empire State Titans team falls and it currently competes in the New York Minor League series.
The team includes players from different countries and Chauhan stresses that it is an initiative among others, to help young cricketers develop their skills in a professional environment.