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Bradford Park Avenue could return to Yorkshire Cricket

— 11 December 2014

The Yorkshire County Cricket Club have revealed new plans to boost cricket across Bradford with the regeneration of Bradford Park Avenue.

In a partnership between Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC), the Yorkshire Cricket Board, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), and Bradford Council, the “iconic” venue could be restored to its former glory to spearhead the development of inner-city cricket.

  • Although the initial focus will be on increasing grass-roots participation, there is also the prospect of first-class cricket potentially returning to the ground for the first time since 1996.

    As part of work funded by Sport England, Bradford has been targeted by the ECB as one of five cities in which the national governing body wants to engage more closely with South-Asian communities.

    However, recent data has highlighted a gap, said by the ECB to be the biggest in the country, between the number of facilities available and those needed to satisfy demand.

    Figures in Bradford Council’s new Playing Pitch Strategy, released last month, suggest a shortage of 18 cricket grounds across the district, with that figure rising to 25 venues by 2021.

  • "This is a fantastic opportunity for us to regenerate Park Avenue for the benefit of the community." - Mark Arthur

    Mark Arthur

    Park Avenue is cited in the strategy as having “poor changing facilities”, but a “good-quality pitch”, and the ground has a covenant that means it can only be redeveloped for cricketing purposes.

    Mark Arthur, YCCC chief executive, confirmed the club had visited the site with Council officials to assess its current state.
    “Because there is a shortage of pitches in the Bradford area, this is a fantastic opportunity for us to regenerate Park Avenue for the benefit of the community,” he said.

    “There is also the potential for disability cricket, women’s cricket, academy cricket, and maybe one day in the future, there may be a time where the odd first-class game could go there, particularly in 2019, when we are scheduled in Yorkshire to host an Ashes Test, a one-day international against Australia, and probably four World Cup matches here in Leeds.

    “This will put huge pressure on our pitch facilities at Headingley, and if Bradford Park Avenue was up to first-class standards by that time, there is no reason why we couldn’t look to take the odd game there.

    “But, fundamentally, this is about community use, and a flagship opportunity for the ECB in that it is probably the best-situated inner-city ground in a city with one of the fastest-growing populations in the country.

    “The refurbishment of Park Avenue could be the potential jewel in the crown, but we need to do a feasibility study to see if we can bring it back up to scratch.”

  • YCCC hopes to complete a feasibility study of the ground early in the new year, but the first phase of the project could include a range of modern practice pitches designated for club and community use. In the longer-term, the scheme could include a new pavilion and stadium facilities on the site.

    It is hoped that new cricket nets at Park Avenue – there are plans for eight new artificial nets and four grass nets – will be up-and-running by 2016.

    In addition, the partners hope that the redevelopment of Park Avenue will provide better engagement with Bradford’s Asian community, a huge number of which are cricket-lovers, at a time when participation in the sport is on the wane.

    Figures published last month showed a decline in the number of people playing cricket nationwide from 908,000 in 2013 to 844,000 this year.

    Part of that is due to a lack of provision.

    Dan Musson, the ECB’s facilities and investment manager, said: “We want new spaces to play cricket in Bradford and an iconic facility in Park Avenue that can connect the local community right through to elite.

  • Bradford Park Avenue in the 1950s

    “At present, we can’t put an exact figure on the costs but it will be seven figures.

    “We hope to have the visuals and costs early next year, but we’re basically looking at a new pavilion for Park Avenue, practice facilities, revamping the square, the outfield, and so on.

    “It would be a new stadium, effectively.”

    Phil Barker, Bradford Council’s assistant director for sport and leisure, said: “We’ve met representatives from YCCC and the ECB and are delighted that they are considering Bradford Park Avenue as a potential venue for the development of cricket in this area.

    “These talks are at an early stage, and they will come back to us with more details when they have them.”

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