City Hall Pitches 34,000-Seat Cricket Stadium in Van Cortlandt Park
The “temporary” facility would need to be completed before next June to host matches in the T20 Cricket World Cup, according to local officials briefed by the administration and a document obtained by THE CITY.
The Adams administration has reached out to officials in the Bronx about an ambitious plan to erect a 34,000-seat stadium in Van Cortlandt Park to host games in next year’s edition of one of cricket’s premier global tournaments.
The “temporary” and “modular” structure would host matches next June in the 2024 T20 World Cup held by the International Cricket Council, according to local officials who have been briefed on the plan by the Adams administration and an ICC proposal obtained by THE CITY.
The Cup will be held for the first time in the West Indies and the United States next year, in an attempt to grow the relatively small U.S. audience for the world’s second-most popular sport.
While the Dubai-based ICC has not yet announced host cities for next year’s event, its proposal for Van Cortlandt Park — labeled “confidential” — says that “it is likely that one or more of the highest profile fixtures in the tournament would be staged at the proposed NYC venue.”
Though they are not opposing it, Bronx elected officials told THE CITY that they have serious concerns about the plan that they heard about from the Adams administration and that would require turning over park land to a ticket-selling venue that would hold nearly as many people as Yankee Stadium or the city’s two professional basketball arenas combined. The stadium would need to be erected in less than five months, starting in January, in close proximity to the graves of enslaved Africans and likely displacing the 12 cricket pitches in the park that New Yorkers use now.
A spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams provided a general statement of support for hosting T20 World Cup games in the five boroughs, without answering a list of specific questions about the proposal.
“New York City remains hopeful to be selected as one of the International Cricket Council’s host cities,” Brad Weekes, spokesperson for Mayor Adams. told THE CITY. Cricket is one of the world’s most popular sports, and it only makes sense to host their tournament in the melting pot that is New York City,”
Weekes added that, “If the International Cricket Council chooses New York City, we will explore all locations to host this once in a generation tournament.”
The ICC did not respond to a request for comment from THE CITY.
‘A Significant Improvement’
Cricket, wildly popular in the footprint of the former British empire, is played with a bat and a ball on a pitch where batters attempt to drive in runs and bowlers and fielders try to stop them. Bowlers, similar to pitchers in baseball, throw the ball to the batters.
There are three formats of cricket, T-20 being the fastest version in which a match can be completed in a few hours. In test matches, the original format, a match can take up to five days.
Cricket’s popularity has been growing in New York City. In 2008, the New York City Department of Education made cricket a varsity sport, which drew 14 teams – now 30 – and 650 children across every borough excluding Staten Island. In 2021, the New York State Legislature enacted a law to officially promote the sport.
According to the ICC’s proposal, construction of the stadium and an adjacent “fan zone” with “multiple food/beverage options, merchandise stores and entertainment” would take place between January and May of next year, with nearly 20 acres of the park eventually fenced off to allow for that. The group anticipates a labor force of “up to 400-600 active workers” for construction, and “1,500-3,000 workers at the event itself.
“The entire modular stadium and all elements of construction will be built above ground and designed to protect existing underground irrigation and drainage utilities at VCP [Van Cortlandt Park],” according to the document.
The stadium, it says, would be “of similar construction to that of weekly PGA Golf events which are well known to the metropolitan Tri-State area” and is located in a corner of a park it claims “will ensure that no damage is done to any existing irrigation or drainage at VCP.”
The stadium would be dismantled in July, the report says, and “the legacy for New York City following the world cup will be a state-of-the-art outfield” along with “a new synthetic turf pitch” that “will be a significant improvement” on the synthetic turf there now.
‘Trying to Pull This Off’
Two local elected officials who were briefed on the plan by City Hall said they were not opposed to putting the stadium in the park but that the path to doing so would likely be longer and more complicated than the proposal, or the Adams administration, has acknowledged.
They cited a potential need for state legislation to make a section inaccessible to the public for months, and potential cause damage to the park — including the Enslaved African Burial Ground where Africans who had been enslaved on the Van Cortlandt plantation are presumed to be buried.
“I believe that in order to build a temporary 34,000-seat stadium in Van Cortlandt Park, the greatest park in the city as we all know, it would require legislative approval in order to alienate parkland,” said Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-The Bronx), who’s met with administration officials twice in the last two weeks to discuss the plan.
Dinowitz said the parade grounds are “immediately adjacent” to the burial ground. And, he said a project of this scale would need to go through an environmental review, or EIS, and potentially even the city’s land use review procedure, known as ULURP.
“That’s a significant legal issue, which I don’t think that the administration has considered as far as I know. I think there would have to be other measures taken: A ULURP, an EIS,” he said.
“All those things take time, he continued, “and I think the decision on this has to be made very quickly.”
As to the idea that the administration could potentially avoid those processes by asserting the stadium would be a temporary structure, Dinowitz said that “I don’t believe that they can.”
“They can try to assert that but I suspect that that will end up involving litigation, particularly with the need for park alienation.”
Still, he added, “I applaud the administration for trying to pull this off. I really do.”
Councilmember Eric Dinowitz (D-The Bronx), who is Jeffrey’s son, emphasized “deep community input” as the most critical component of a plan that the Adams administration had discussed with local officials but not publicly acknowledged.
“City Hall says that the park will be restored but I think it’s a lot to lose your park for six months and then have that many people pouring into a community,” Dinowitz told THE CITY.
“No site has been finalized,” Weekes, the spokesperson for Mayor Adams, said in response to a question about whether the city would indeed restore the park after the tournament. “If the city is selected, we will always do our due diligence to work with community partners, follow procedures in place and leave whatever space we are in better than when we arrived.”
A spokesperson for Borough President Vanessa Gibson, Michael Ivory, said that “The Borough President and elected officials had been provided preliminary information on this proposal and are awaiting further details and guidance on next steps from City Hall officials. We also emphasize that any proposal must have a process that is engaging and inclusive of all community stakeholders before any final decisions are made.”
The nonprofit group that raises funds and organizes volunteers to care for the park, the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance, “has not thus far been included in the process and requests more information regarding this proposal,” a spokesperson told THE CITY.
Karen Argenti, secretary of the board for the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, which has worked on several projects in Van Cortlandt Park, said that her group opposes the proposal it earned about from Assemblymember Dinowitz, and blasted City Hall for what she said was its failure to get community input.
“Whether or not we like what somebody decided to do is not really the question. The question is, where is the transparency?” said Argenti.
“You’re just not king, you know. When you become a mayor or a leader, you’re not king. You have to follow the rules,”