MLC and Town of Morrisville announce Church Street Park expansion and stadium upgrades

Church Street Park in North Carolina

Major League Cricket, Triangle Cricket League, the Town of Morrisville, and Minor League Cricket’s Morrisville Cardinals announced today a public/private partnership that will transform Church Street Park into an international grade cricket ground. 

Renovations will include floodlit natural turf practice nets, 2,000 permanent seats which will bring the capacity to over 3,500, broadcast infrastructure, additional parking and more. The upgrades will enable the popular ground to host Major League and International Cricket and make Church Street Park an obvious favorite to host 2024 T20 World Cup games. 

Morrisville Town Manager Martha Paige opened the announcement by emphasizing the history and hard work that’s brought the scenic park to this moment. “One of the first things I was a part of after joining the Morrisville team was the groundbreaking of this park,” Paige began.

“Our partnership with TCL throughout the years has forged a joint effort to bring attention and exposure to our cricket field. Many, many man hours, and blood, sweat and tears, and even a little panic at times, culminated in the TCL and the town hosting the ICC (World Cup) T20 Qualifier in 2018. 

I don’t think there is any one asset in the town that has gotten as much attention as this cricket field. I think we all knew then that there would be more, and Morrisville could host a big event successfully, and our partnerships are key. Last year, Church Street Park hosted the Morrisville Cardinals for their inaugural season. Now, after countless hours of work behind the scenes to find ways to continue to enhance those opportunities at the park, we are honored and excited to announce a multi-million dollar public/private partnership to jointly invest in the expansion of Church Street Park, upgrading the facility into an international quality cricket venue.” 

The T20 World Cup Qualifiers referenced by Paige included two games against Canada that have become legendary in the memories of those in attendance. USA and Canada split the two games, with Canada winning the first in a super over, and Steven Taylor winning the second game for USA in the final over, when the team needed 22 to win.

USA clinched first place in the Americas region, and both teams went on to the global qualifiers, but it was the dramatic ending and electric atmosphere under the lights on Cricket Pitch Way that continue to live in the imaginations of those in attendance. 

Partnered with Taylor in those memorable final few balls was two-time Caribbean Premier League champion fast-bowler Ali Khan. 

“To this date, I tell people that the best game I ever played in USA Cricket was at Morrisville,” Ali told Emerging Cricket on an episode of The Minor League Cricket Show. “Why? Because the way people came out to watch the game. I’ve never seen 3,000 plus people watch a game live in the USA. The best part is a lot of people came out with their kids.” 

The effects of the 2018 series remain tangible, and certainly played a part in Church Street Park hosting the inaugural Minor League Cricket Finals weekend in 2021. 

“Morrisville Cardinals are very proud of having the largest and very passionate fans in Minor League Cricket,” Cardinals owner Praveen Chakraraj added. “These improvements will really enhance our cricket skills in this area. We are looking forward to these enhancements and to show even better cricket for our fans and the city.” 

Easily the most heavily attended venue throughout the inaugural Minor League Cricket season, Church Street Park routinely drew crowds over 1,000. Saturday night games under the lights drew several hundred more, with local league players pouring in after their own games concluded. The 2021 Minor League Cricket Finals Weekend, held over the first weekend of October, saw even more fan support, as the four best teams across the country converged for three high stakes games.

Tom Dumore, Major League Cricket’s Vice President of Marketing, spoke on behalf of MLC. “When we had the minor league finals here in October, it was seeing more than 3,000 fans out here that bring the community together around the sport of cricket that made it so special, and that’s what we want to bring here in the future, and with these expanded facilities we’re going to be able to do that in a very new and special way.”

Morrisville Council member Steve Rao reflected on the immense effort that spanned multiple mayors and city council configurations to get the ground to this point since 2012. “We have spent millions of minutes, millions of minutes, millions, over the last decade which have turned into hours and days, and those days turned into years, of just tremendous vision and perseverance. Seeing people out here on these wonderful fields, I just can’t think of a better place than the All-America City of Morrisville to celebrate the great game of cricket.” 

The park has also left an impression on international cricketers who played in Minor League Cricket this past summer. Shane Dowrich, who appeared in 31 tests as wicket keeper for West Indies, played at Church Street Park with the visiting Manhattan Yorkers and was impressed by his experience. “This is a beautiful ground. I think it’s the best ground I’ve played at in the States thus far,” Dowrich told Emerging Cricket at the time.

A significant chunk of those “millions of minutes” referenced by Council member Rao have been put in by municipal facilities and grounds workers. “It’s a big undertaking. Currently we have one full time employee, Pat here, who does this for forty hours a week, and that’s extensive. That can be over-hours, weekends, we have to get creative with scheduling. In the future two years, we’re looking at putting two more staff out here, similar hours. It could be 80-plus hours, easily out here, just to maintain it for major events.” 

Pat Vrnak, Church Street Park’s curator, gave us a glimpse of the year-round work required to maintain a ground of this standard. “Right now, we’re actually about a month out from our renovations, where we tear pretty much the top layer off and just let everything grow back up and just cover it with fresh new clay for the upcoming season. It has to be done every year. It’s a pretty labor intensive process.”  

Triangle Cricket League President, Babar Baig spoke on the role that the ground continues to play in the development of local youth. “Our cricket community here is very delighted to see these upgrades. Not only will these upgrades help the local community, but it will also help the next generation of cricketers who are going to play here, train here, but also get to see the world class cricket that will be played throughout the years.” 

Morrisville Cardinals all-rounder Aditya Gupta was one of three local youth players who developed through the Triangle Cricket League to make his way onto USA Cricket’s Men’s U19 team in 2021. “This ground honestly means a lot, it’s my home ground. Every time I drive by here, I have to look out, I have to slow down my car and take a glance and see what’s going on here,” Aditya told Emerging Cricket. “Honestly, it’s a beautiful ground, and it’s great to see what it’s come out to. I just can’t wait to see the future advancements of this ground, and to play even more cricket here and to see even more great players come here and play.”

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