With cricket canceled, what's next for $5 million park?
A park being constructed to attract international sports to Indianapolis is looking for its inaugural event after a cancellation last week.
Late Monday, the U.S. American Cricket Association announced its U.S. national tournament will be held in Broward County, Florida in a lighted stadium built for the sport. Friday, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard canceled the city's contract with the USCA.
So what's next for a park the city spent more than $5 million grooming to host championships? Administrators insist there is a lot more than cricket to be played in the new Indianapolis World Sports Park.
City officials figured the cricket championships would have brought thousands of people to Indianapolis and its south side park. It's nearly built, but the question is, "Who will come?"
Contractors and their heavy equipment are still moving mud and digging ditches. But on the other end of city's World Sports Park, groundskeepers are manicuring a lush lawn that won't be used for a national cricket tournament. All this is costing taxpayers a little over $5 million.
Del Walker runs a business nearby.
"They could have used that money somewhere where it could have done some good," he said. "Now we got a pretty field someone has to mow."
It's more than a pretty field. The high end turf is planted over a sophisticated drainage system. The result is acres of green, grown and engineered to withstand the use and abuse of sporting events.
To bare feet, it feels more like carpet than grass. Unlike most park athletic fields, there's not a puddle or even a soft spot in sight.
In the United States, cricket is a small but growing sport, helped by newcomers who grew up watching bowlers, batsmen and wicket keepers.
"As fans know, cricket is the world's second largest sport," said Parag Pandya.
Pandya plays for the Indy Legends Cricket Club and is disappointed the national championships won't be played in Indianapolis.
"There is a lot of cricket playing across the U.S. There are big championships all over the U.S.," Pandya explained. "We would love to see one in Indianapolis, as well."
The city canceled its contract with the United States of America Cricket Association, saying a lack of communication threatened the tournament's success. Planners here say they weren't getting information on sponsors, qualifying tournaments and other critical details.
Administrators say they've yet to receive an official response from the USACA. Eyewitness News requests for information have not been answered.
Lydia Londry looked over the park as she walked to the existing community center.
"We're digging a lot and it looks like we are making a big effort for cricket," she said. "Can't we make a big effort for something else?"
City officials say the groomed fields were laid out with the intention of using them for sports other than cricket. Soccer, lacrosse and rugby are among the variety of international games mentioned.
The parks department says it is negotiating with another major sports organization to bring another event here. A spokesperson isn't saying who or when. Other similar facilities like this are so booked up, they anticipate this one will get plenty of use.