Usacricketers.com had a chance to sit with Richard Kaplan, the former longest-serving Mayor of Lauderhill, Florida, the capital City for cricket in the USA, as he reflected on his involvement in the construction of the Central Broward Park & Broward County Stadium, some regrets, his contributions to public service, his love of cricket, being inducted into the Cricket Hall of Fame, and his desire to see cricket flourish in the USA.
What challenges did you face building the Broward County Cricket Stadium, the first to be recognized by the ICC as an official ODI venue?
The major challenge was negotiating with the County on issues related to its construction. The County provided the funding through a voter-approved General Obligation Park Bond Issue which specifically included the building of this park. Political dynamics at play involving certain people created preventable problems with the design, construction, and ultimate overruns on costs. At first, the City was primarily blamed for the problems. However, we held a series of meetings that proved the contrary was true, and it was mainly the fault of the County itself caused by the bidding process and who was hired to do the construction.
Because of the overruns caused by using an unqualified contractor, the County had to cut back on the project. It resulted in a smaller field (which was still quite acceptable, 500′ as opposed to the 550′ planned initially). Poor lighting prevented us from being certified by the ICC for night games for several years, a poor pitch (which has gone through several modifications and is finally excellent), and a major problem with the scoreboard later caused its replacement. An on-site training facility that was part of the initial planning was never constructed.
How did you get involved in cricket, and why?
My philosophy when elected Mayor was to provide my constituents with those programs and activities they wanted, as long as it was funded. Many of my residents wanted to build a first-rate cricket program, and the City was supportive. It was agreed that we would start a Saturday Night Winter Cricket T20 League around 2003. First with 28 overs, then 25, and finally settled on 20 by the end of the season, long before the term T20 was coined. It was planned that two games would be played each night.
To create the league and build interest, we did a few demonstration games before 2003, which were quite successful. One of the goals was publicity, and someone came up with the brilliant idea of what better promotion could there be than to see the Mayor play in a game. Since I played competitive softball, tennis, and golf, and the batting technique seemed to combine the three, I was willing to learn how to play.
Though it was a publicity stunt, and everybody knew it, no one expected me to perform that well. I just took it seriously, did my best, and had a lot of fun though I was exhausted running in hockey-like equipment. The result of my batting in that first game was quite successful, and I can say I scored nine runs with my partner scoring 14.
Another result was that I took to the game and continued to play in the league though it took some time for my technique and stamina to improve. Over the years, the community wanted to move forward with an opportunity created to build the cricket stadium that evolved through establishing a sister City with Chaguanas in Trinidad & Tobago. The trip there led to the inquiry about our interest in participating in the World Cup in 2007. Things just took off after that.
Why did Florida/USA not host any games in the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup held in the Caribbean?
Good question. We expected to succeed in the bid process since we were reassured we would be seriously considered and given a fair chance. After getting some strange signals from connected people as we developed our bid.
After all, we were host to multiple Super Bowls, World Series Games, Stanley Cup Games, PGA/LPGA/Senior PGA Golf Tournaments, NBA Basketball Championship Games, and even a Soccer World Cup. South Florida is ideal for major sporting events.
The short official answer is there were concerns about security and, to a lesser extent, the limitations of bringing players through immigration. In both cases, we had proposed solutions that would have worked just fine. Though not acceptable for us, the same security team was hired by other countries because of their availability.
The unofficial answer we got some time later was that members of the Site Selection Committee decided that putting games in Florida would take away from the Caribbean countries that had worked very hard to secure the games. The offer to bid was a courtesy, and they didn’t realize we could put together a workable and valid bid, including building an ICC-accredited Stadium. The failure to get these games caused the construction of the stadium and set the development of International Cricket in the USA back by three years.
Are you still involved in cricket now that you’re retired and no longer the Mayor?
A little. I promote the sport when given the opportunity, and I have become involved in providing some consultations for communities wishing to become involved in the 2024 T20 World Cup in the USA. It may be easier for a Mayor (even a former Mayor) to talk with other government officials. Some of which I may still know.
How special was it to be inducted into the Cricket Hall of Fame?
It was unexpected but received with great pleasure. It’s not something anyone from where I am from would have ever imagined. Next year is my High School’s 50th Reunion in Michigan, and of all the people in my graduating class, no one would have figured I would have received such an honor.
How would you like to be remembered by the cricket community?
As someone who loved playing and did their best to promote the sport, to show them that there are those in government who are honest and want to do what they can to serve their constituencies. I hope I will be remembered as a friend of the sport and those involved.
But more importantly, none of this would have happened without the help of many other supporters and sponsors. Not only with the City, the City staff, and Commissioners, but the volunteers, community, and region. I was only one of many.
What’s your recollection of USACA, the governing body for USA cricket, during most of your tenure as Mayor of Lauderhill?
At first, an organization that wanted to work with others and promote the sport. But by 2012, one whose leadership wanted to stop (and did stop) the potential future development of cricket, so that we couldn’t move forward as the ICC and our community wanted. It caused the cancellation of planned international games in 2013. The West Indies hosted those games instead.
For whatever reason, they no longer wanted to work with partners willing to work with them. Those problems shut down the sport’s promotion and development on an international level for 3 to 4 years. But today is a new day, and everything is looking forward.
It is rumored that since retiring from office in 2018, you have become quite an author.
It is not a rumor; it’s true. I just published my newest book, “Cricket, Lovely Cricket: How International Cricket Came to the United States.” It’s on Amazon.com and has been the #1 New Release book on cricket and doing well. It contains much more detail on some of the questions you have asked.
You have been a public servant for more than three decades. Does your son have any plans to follow in your footsteps in politics, and would you encourage him to do so?
I will support whatever endeavors my son, Andrew, wishes to follow, including politics, if that is what he wants. But unfortunately, No. He loves music and enjoys his job managing performers and bands around the country. I’ll be sure to let him know you asked.
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