Jun. 2—MANCHESTER — After several years of planning and identifying the best location, the town is opening its first cricket field.
Town officials are hosting a grand opening Thursday for the new cricket field at Robertson Park. An exhibition game will be held following a ribbon cutting and some words about the project.
The field is located at Robertson Park adjacent to Robertson School. Parking is available across from Union Pond on North School Street.
Manchester’s director of leisure, family, and recreation, Chris Silver, said the cricket field has been a long time coming. Over the last 15 to 20 years, Manchester and surrounding towns have seen an increase in residents from countries where cricket is popular, like those coming from India, Pakistan, and other countries.
“It was a cultural thing brought here by our Southeast Asian population,” Silver said. “Our Bengali communities, our Pakistani communities brought the sport with them.”
As these communities continued to grow, it became clear that they needed somewhere public to play cricket, which is a large part of the culture. Silver said that with a designated cricket field, there will be fewer conflicts with groups competing to use sports fields, such as softball fields.
Silver said the designated cricket fields in Hartford and now Manchester are among only a few in the region. In addition to the large, round, grassy area, there’s a track around the cricket field to give the field some other uses.
“They make for great green space too,” Silver said.
The process of getting a cricket field didn’t come without some bumps in the road. The biggest issue after the idea arose was “where do we put this?” Silver said. Softball has a “deep tradition” in Manchester, Silver said, so not everyone was in favor of tearing down a softball field for cricket. Further, a regulation cricket field requires a circular area several hundred feet in diameter, so there were limited possible locations for the field.
“My argument was, ‘We have plenty of softball fields, and we have a change in demographics in our community that’s happened over 15-20 years,'” Silver said.
Ultimately, a softball field, which was named after the late Journal Inquirer sports editor Randy Smith, and the town’s skate park were demolished at Robertson to make way for the new field, which still carries Smith’s name. A total of $350,000 was allocated for the construction of the field, which was reimbursed through the state’s Local Capital Improvement Program.
Silver said that it’s important to welcome cultural elements of new populations in town, and he said he expects the sport to grow now as other groups get interested. There are several cricket teams already in town that play elsewhere, and Silver said more recreation programs in the future could utilize the field.
“We are planning and creating a community that is inclusive and accessible to everyone and every group, so this cricket field, to me, is important,” Silver said. “It addresses a real need in the community.
Going forward, groups can request permits to use the field for organized games, but the field is open to the public whenever it’s open and free.
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