By Dana Rubinstein
September 20, 2023
A contentious plan backed by Mayor Eric Adams for the International Cricket Council to build a temporary, 34,000-seat stadium in a Bronx park is dead, following heated opposition from local elected officials and some amateur cricket players.
The stadium was to host part of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup next June. The venue will instead be built in Eisenhower Park in Nassau County on Long Island.
The decision represents a defeat for Mr. Adams, who has made lifting New York City’s sports economy key to his economic agenda and backed the bid, even hosting a rally in City Hall in support of the proposal.
The news was confirmed by an Adams administration official and in a draft news release reviewed by The New York Times. It was announced publicly by the International Cricket Council Wednesday morning.
“New York City put forward a competitive bid reflective of the diversity of our city and the countless immigrant communities who call it home, and we appreciate their support,” Amaris Cockfield, a spokeswoman for Mr. Adams, said in a statement congratulating Nassau County for its selection.
Ms. Cockfield said that City Hall looked forward to welcoming tournament attendees at the hotels, restaurants and “other attractions that make New York City the best destination for major events.”
In March, the International Cricket Council, a global governing body for the sport, approached the mayor’s office about its plan to build a modular cricket stadium in Van Cortlandt Park atop the city’s largest expanse of cricket pitches, according to a timeline provided by both the city and the Cricket Council. The stadium was to have the seating capacity of Fenway Park.
The proposal quickly won the support of the mayor. It also angered users of Van Cortlandt Park and divided the cricket-playing community.
Though the plan called for construction to begin in early 2024, details about the actual bid remained scant. What became clear was that the Cricket Council would need the park for an estimated six months, and some critics feared even longer.
“I am thrilled that our coalition of elected and community leaders was successful in protecting Van Cortlandt Park,” Councilman Eric Dinowitz, who represents the area, said Wednesday. “With no community input, a private organization would have removed access to our public park for months on end while inflicting untold damage on our park.”
The administration claimed the multiday event could lead to $150 million in economic activity for New York City and create thousands of jobs.
Parks advocates bristled at turning over public land to a private entity for months on end and warned of possible legal repercussions.
“Parkland in New York City is meant to be free and accessible for all,” said Adam Ganser, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks. “As a paid private venue, occupying parkland for nearly a year, this proposal was unprecedented and problematic out of the gate.”
Cricket players were divided. Some hailed the idea, while others recoiled at the notion of a modular stadium taking over the cricket pitches in the middle of the season.
A prominent environmental lawyer argued that the city’s plan amounted to an illegal taking of public land for private purposes, and to render it legal would require state legislative action.
It was an argument embraced by local elected officials, including Representative Ritchie Torres.
“Van Cortlandt Park does not belong to those in political power, it belongs to the people,” Mr. Torres said this month. “If the city government wishes to remove Van Cortlandt Park from the public trust, it must go to the state legislature.”
Roughly 60 days ago, the Cricket Council reached out to the Nassau County executive, Bruce Blakeman, to see if he might be interested in hosting the event.
“I said ‘Of course,’” Mr. Blakeman said in an interview on Tuesday. “We’re used to doing big events here in Nassau County. We’ve got a lot of cricket fans.”
Nassau County will share United States hosting duties next year with two other locations: Grand Prairie, Texas, and Broward County, Fla., according to the draft release.