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Lions, Tigers and… Cricket?

November 16, 2018  - By
Photo: Michigan Recreational Construction

A close up of the cricket pitch at Detroit’s Lasky Recreation Center. Photo: Michigan Recreational Construction

Detroit is a proud Rust Belt sports town – and there’s one sport in particular that’s gaining in popularity in the city: cricket.

You heard that correctly. In August of 2017, Detroit celebrated the opening of a cricket field at the Lasky Recreation Center — the city’s only cricket pitch and the first built since the 1970s.

The sport shares some similarities with baseball, with two teams each taking turns batting and fielding, though the pitching style (called “bowling” in cricket), equipment, ball size and field dimensions differ.

City of Detroit Park Development Manager Jeff Klein says that the cricket field became a reality because the parks department began listening to residents who were calling on the city to create one.

“We’ve got a substantial immigrant population in and around Detroit that play cricket, and it’s becoming a more and more popular sport,” Klein says. “We don’t want to have our residents driving out to the suburbs, or wherever the closest cricket field is. We want them to live, work and play in Detroit. That’s part of the whole package — for any city that’s looking to retain its residents and give them the amenities that they need.”

Prior to the creation of the field, cricket enthusiasts in the Motor City (many of whom belong to the growing Bangladeshi population), had to be resourceful, resorting to playing on empty parking lots and the surrounding grounds.

The field has been a success since its opening, and in April, it was booked solid through November.

Creating the field

Photo: Michigan Recreational Construction

A before shot. Photo: Michigan Recreational Construction

From the start of the construction to the ribbon cutting, the circular field took three months to create, and the work was completed by a Detroit contractor, Michigan Recreational Construction (MRC). According to Klein, the workers stripped the whole area of its existing turf and regraded it, bringing in 2534 cubic yards of soil for the project.

MRC workers then constructed the cricket pitch. “Aside from the grading, the only thing that lets you know it’s a cricket field is the pitch. It’s an 80-foot-long concrete strip has a synthetic turf carpeting on it—this is where the pitching and batting part of the game takes place,” Klein explains.

The contractor reseeded the turf with 1200 lbs. of Rhino Seed 50/50 seed mix. The field was overseeded with perennial ryegrass and then fertilized. The team installed a temporary irrigation system to ensure the growth of the grass.

Photo: Michigan Recreational Construction

Cricket pitch construction. Photo: Michigan Recreational Construction

“It’s funny, we want the grass to come up well,” Klein says, “but the cricket players want the ground to be hard like a rock and cut super short so the ball rolls though.”

“We ask a lot out of turf in order to be that beautiful field — you’re cutting turf a much lower than you would like it to be to have healthy turf,” he acknowledges.

The City of Detroit’s parks crew handles the turf maintenance with some consultancy from MRC. As far as typical maintenance, the team follows the fertilization plan developed by the contractor and during the cricket season, it mows the field to 2 inches twice weekly.

“A learning experience”

Klein says that the cricket field project was a great learning experience for the parks department, and has taught them the value of completing these new types of field installations the right way, the first time.

Photo: Michigan Recreational Construction

Laying the concrete base for the pitch. Photo: Michigan Recreational Construction

This fall, the city worked with MRC to do a bit of touch up grading work, based on feedback that Klein has received from a representative of the cricket-playing community in Detroit.

“I feel that’s a part of our jobs, to be more accessible to the community, and we’ve developed a strong and trusting relationship,” he says.

The city looks forward to more cricket on the horizon in Detroit as it has plans to add another cricket field to its parks system in the coming months.

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