Faraz Saleem has a waiting list of 54 teams that want to play cricket in Brampton this summer and he figures that he will probably only be able to find enough field space to accommodate two of them.
“Right now, finding any field time related to cricket is impossible in Brampton,” Saleem, who is the president of the Brampton Cricket League, told CP24.com this week. “Our season starts in May and there's just no room. It is almost like a lottery.”
Brampton has always been a hotbed for cricket, owing in part to its large multicultural population.
But the sport’s popularity has surged in recent years, creating a demand for new and better facilities.
Now, the City of Brampton is getting involved.
It recently launched an expression of interest process for a 112-acre city-owned parcel of land near Highways 401 and 407, with the goal of creating a “new urban core” that would be anchored by a “state-of-the-art, multi-purpose cricket facility.”
The project is still probably years away. But the mere possibility has people like Saleem, who are involved with the game at a grassroots level, excited for the future.
“There is actually nothing in Canada that's good enough to host an international event,” he told CP24.com. “In the United States, they are ahead of us. They have fields in Texas, they have fields in Florida that are now hosting the International Cricket Council's World Cup (in 2024). I think Brampton has that sort of potential.”
Stadium could be expandable to 20,000 seats
Brampton recently conducted a public consultation process to determine what residents want to see done with the vast tract of land surrounding the 5,000-seat CAA Centre, which will remain as part of any new development.
It is now seeking expressions of interest from developers, with the matter likely to come back before city council in the fall.
A staff report in 2021 previously suggested that the site could accommodate a cricket stadium with a regular capacity of 5,000 spectators that would be expandable to 20,000 seats for larger events.
Staff pegged the cost at the time at $35 million, though later increased their estimate to $49 million. One group interested in building a cricket stadium in Brampton told CP24.com the true cost might actually be “three or four times” that.
“You don't see this amount of space available in the GTA. This might be one of the last opportunities for an iconic area that includes a sporting amenity,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown told CP24.com this week. “You look at Ottawa and how that football stadium changed the scope of that Lansdowne area in Ottawa. It was an economic driver and I hope that we can see this new amenity be a major economic driver for the south end of Brampton.”
The CAA site was first identified as the potential home of a major mixed-use development in an ambitious development plan that was released in 2018 and dubbed ‘Brampton 2040 vision.’
Staff have previously suggested that the site could accommodate more than 1,200 residential units and nearly one million square feet of office space.
But the stadium would be the main attraction.
Speaking with CP24.com, Brown said that any stadium built on the lands needs to be “multi-purpose” and capable of hosting a range of both local and international events.
He said that despite the fact that a cricket pitch can be more than twice the size of a soccer field, technical experts consulted by the city have suggested that a new facility in Brampton could “accommodate both uses” and have pointed to stadiums in Australia and Texas where that is the case.
Brown, however, conceded that there has been “a lot of buzz” about the cricket component of the project specifically, with several Indian Premier League cricket teams expressing “an interest in the stadium and potential partnerships.”
“I really think the potential is incredible,” he said. “Right now in Brampton, and I think the GTA frankly, the fastest growing sports is cricket. You know we have empty baseball diamonds and hockey rinks. But we've got 400 teams on the waitlist for cricket. I really believe cricket today is where soccer was 20 years ago.”
Group believes facility could be booked 130 times a year
The idea of building a cricket stadium in Brampton isn’t new. In fact, Brown made it part of his mayoral campaign in the lead up to the 2018 election.
In June of last year, a consortium of developers also made a pitch to Brampton City Council that was based on them shouldering the cost of constructing a new cricket stadium in exchange for the transfer of the 112-acre parcel of land.
Council ultimately voted to send the matter back to staff for further consideration.
But the group, which has struck a partnership with Cricket Canada, says that it remains interested in helping to get a stadium built in Brampton.
“We are still very interested in being a part of the full development of those lands,” Cary Kaplan, who is a member of the Cricket Development Group consortium, told CP24.com this week. “Our key focus is that it's a world-class cricket stadium that is central to the development. In these things that can get away from ultimate decisions as developers look at all kinds of different things to do, but I think, you know, Canada's in grave need of a world-class cricket facility and that is central to our interest.”
Kaplan said that his desire to bring a permanent cricket stadium to Brampton dates back to the 2019 Global T20 Canada tournament in the city, which his company Cosmos Sports & Entertainment helped manage.
That event was held in a temporary facility set up on the land surrounding the CAA Centre and attracted crowds in the thousands.
Kaplan believes that a permanent facility could be booked upwards of 130 times a year and would essentially anchor an “entertainment hub” in south Brampton.
“The television viewership of that little tournament in Brampton was bigger than the Super Bowl (in the U.S.) - 133 million people watched it live. It just shows how big globally the sport is and that Brampton is probably the right place to do this,” he said of the 2019 tournament. “There's no city in Canada that has a higher percentage of cricket-loving people.”
Brown said that he would like to see the stadium built using a “public-private partnership,” which would see the private sector shoulder most of the capital costs.
He said that the project will likely take four years to actually get built under the most “ambitious” of timelines.
But he told CP24.com that the end result could be worth waiting for.
“I think pride in sports can generate civic pride as well. So this would create some opportunities for some very special events in our community that can really rally the city together,” Brown said.