GREEN BAY - Though there's snow on the ground, there is hope that the Green Bay Cricket Association could have a more permanent home once it thaws.
Shahul Azad's played cricket since he was five years old. Like many kids in India do.
"Cricket is in our blood," said Azad, president of the GBCA.
Cricket is similar to baseball. You have a bowler – like a pitcher and a batsman – the hitter. To win, you must score more runs than the other team. Each team has 11 players. Games can last for just an hour or two, whereas international matches can go on for days at a time.
After Azad moved to Green Bay in 1999, the IT analyst for Integrys played his beloved sport where he could – from basketball courts to tennis courts – with a small group of people who love it as much as he does.
But those numbers grew.
This past year, the eight-team Green Bay Cricket Association (GBCA) was formed and now boasts roughly 200 cricket players and enthusiasts. The Green Bay Parks Department opened up Beaver Dam Park on the city's west as a temporary cricket grounds. Now, the association and the city are working together to help the sport plant deeper roots here in Green Bay.
"The city has been very helpful and accommodating us, helping us find a place," said Azad.
Azad says a more permanent site would help the GBCA grow, and bring the mostly foreign sport – to Americans – to those in Northeast Wisconsin.
"Number one priority, objective is to promote (and) teach cricket for youth," said Azad.
But to play it properly, you need quite a bit of space – which isn't always easy to come by.
"The space itself is one of the obstacles," said James Andersen the recreation superintendent for the Green Bay Parks Department.
Andersen says cricket grounds can vary in size, but what's essential is a large open, flat, grassy area, roughly 400 to 600 feet around. In the middle of that is the pitch – sometimes made out of concrete – where the batsmen and bowlers play. That is what is proving to be a deciding factor of where the cricket grounds might be located in the city parks system.
"We're looking at multiple areas and even possibly even how we can even modify those areas to accommodate this [pitch] and still maintain access to the other users that use those areas," said Andersen.
Andersen says of the 3-4 locations that are being scouted, one is East River Emilie Park on the city's east side – which already has ball fields on it.
But some residents, who have heard about the cricket grounds possibly coming to the large park in their backyard, are balking at the idea.
"The first issue was the parking in this area, the congestion on the streets and noise - and vandalism that could occur," said Tim De Wane, the alderman for the 4th District, which encompasses the park.
"Is that a valid concern when there's already a park here? It's just re-purposing a space?" I asked De Wane.
"Well they realize the park is here and the baseball fields are here, but they just want to keep it down to a minimum," De Wane said.
Both De Wane and Andersen say the process of finding a suitable park can take a long time, but say the right place can be found.
But once a site it chosen, the recommendation must be brought before the parks committee.
Andersen hopes for that to happen in early 2013.
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