North Texas is home to professional teams from nearly every major sport— and soon it will be home to a new one.
With Major League Cricket expecting a full season of play next year, local investors Anurag Jain and Ross Perot Jr. have joined a $44 million combined Series A and A1 funding round to build out the league’s infrastructure. And the MLC is slated to have a significant presence right here in DFW.
The fledgling U.S. league represents one of the most-watched sports in the world.
“The ceiling for cricket’s growth in the United States is incredibly high, with the passion for the game at the grassroots level I’ve observed in Texas proof of its potential,” said Jain, managing partner at local venture Capital firm Perot Jain, in a statement. “The plans MLC have laid out to develop infrastructure and build a foundation for professional cricket to thrive nationwide puts the sport on a tremendous trajectory, and I’m excited to support this vision.”
Building the infrastructure
In addition to the new funding round, which also included Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella as an investor, the MLC said it has received a further $76 million in commitments over the next 12 months.
The total of more than $120 million will largely go toward building cricket-focused stadiums and training facilities for the planned six teams that will play in the league, as well as for a developmental league.
Cricket comes to North Texas
MLC will focus on the Twenty20 format of the game, a shortened version first introduced in 2003. The league’s initial kickoff in 2021 was postponed due to the pandemic and to allow for the redevelopment of Grand Prairie’s AirHogs Stadium, the former home of the Texas AirHogs, a now-defunct independent pro baseball team.
Noted sports architect HKS will transform the AirHogs ballpark into a world-class stadium with major event capacity, seating expandable to 20,000, and outstanding luxury and premium hospitality space.
Upon completion in spring 2023, the Grand Prairie Stadium will be the leading venue for cricket in the United States, the MLC says.
Grand Prairie site will house USA Cricket
In addition to converting the baseball diamond into a cricket pitch and increasing the stadium’s seating capacity to 7,000 permanent seats, the Grand Prairie site will house USA Cricket, the governing body for the sport in the U.S, men’s and women’s national teams, along with a “premier high-performance center.” The stadium will also host international tournaments as USA Cricket seeks to become a full member of the International Cricket Council by 2030.
USA Cricket and MLC said they chose DFW as the home for their first stadium due to its large Southeast Asian community. The sport is popular in the region. The pay-per-view provider of cricket in the U.S. claims that DFW is a top viewership region, according to D Magazine.
MLC is also planning on having franchises in places like Redmond, Wash.; San Jose, Calif.; and Morrisville, N.C.
“Grand Prairie’s centralized location in the U.S. and the thriving Texas cricketing community, allied with the quality of the facility, made it the perfect site for us,” said MLC co-founders Sameer Mehta and Vijay Srinivasan in a statement when the Grand Prairie lease was signed in 2020.
The popularity of cricket has been building for years in North Texas.
A “surprising fact” according to the DALLAS Relocation and Newcomer Guide: Plano is home to the largest collection of cricket fields in the Southwest. Local clubs have boosted the sport in the city with a season that lasts from March until October.
‘Play to win’
The investment in MLC comes as Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has made headlines for his plans to bring a new professional team to the city, while noting that many of the teams that bear the city’s name don’t practice or play within city limits. A couple weeks ago, Johnson announced the formation of a new city council committee to recruit a professional team to the region.
The committee, which Johnson will chair, will look at things such as public ownership models for professional sports franchises and renovating the Cotton Bowl for use by the NFL.
“The city of Dallas boasts incredible assets and presents amazing opportunities for any professional sports franchise,” Johnson wrote in a memo announcing the new committee. “It is long past time for the city of Dallas to play to win these franchises and events. That means we must be more proactive, assertive, and strategic. And we must develop a game plan that enhances our competitiveness internationally, nationally, and within our own region, which is the fastest-growing major metropolitan area in the United States.”
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