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Race Against Time: Transforming Nassau County International Stadium for T20 World Cup 2024

The Nassau County International Stadium is set to be one of the prominent venues for the highly anticipated T20 World Cup 2024. As the tournament makes its historic debut in the USA and the Caribbean, a total of 20 teams are gearing up to compete for cricketing glory in the 20-over format starting from June 2. This marks a significant milestone as the USA takes on the honor of co-hosting a Cricket World Cup for the very first time, alongside the Caribbean.

Selecting an appropriate venue in the USA proved to be a formidable challenge. Don Lockerbie, the venue development officer for the 2024 T20 World Cup, embarked on an extensive search to identify potential locations. His search began with Woodley Park in Los Angeles and Van Cortlandt Park in New York. While New York City mayor Eric Adams advocated for the inclusion of Van Cortlandt Park, the proposal faced substantial opposition from local residents. Another consideration was Los Angeles, especially with cricket being featured in the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, but this option failed to materialize.

The breakthrough came when John Sulinski from LandTek Group contacted Lockerbie. Sulinski suggested Eisenhower Park in Nassau County as a viable option. “John’s from Long Island. He told me: ‘There’s a piece of ground in a park that I think you guys should look at. It’s got the right size. And more importantly, it has the right political interest. I think this is a go,” Lockerbie recounted. The ICC quickly approached Nassau County, securing approval in August 2023. Come November, a formal contract was signed, authorizing the venue to host eight matches.

Construction at the site commenced on January 8, with physical building activities kicking off in February. Transforming the Nassau County Stadium into a fully functional cricket ground was no small feat; the venue is the first ever fully modular cricket stadium, with stands fabricated from steel and aluminum instead of traditional concrete.

Spanning 42 acres, the stadium is equipped with essential facilities such as broadcast setups, parking, and security measures. One of the most challenging tasks was preparing the cricket pitches, a fundamental requirement for the games.

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. These pitches were meticulously developed in Adelaide, Australia and then transported to New York via Florida. Even before final confirmation of the venue, the ICC had engaged Adelaide Oval Turf Solutions in Australia to prepare drop-in pitches, which were subsequently approved.

Six pitch trays were prepared in Adelaide, transferred to Georgia, and then to Florida. The logistics were complex given the necessity to navigate around New York’s frigid December temperatures. “We knew the pitches weren’t arriving [in the US] till early December,” explained Damian Hough, the head curator at Adelaide Oval. “And we knew that early December in New York is freezing cold. So we couldn’t grow the pitches in New York. [We were] relying on LandTek’s experience and understanding of the environment. It started with ‘Where’s your warmest climate?’ That’s down in Florida. I sort of relate Florida to a Queensland sort of environment in our winter,” he added.

Once in Florida, the pitches underwent thorough rolling and testing. By April, 22 trucks transported the pitches to New York. “This was the biggest fear I had for the entire project,” admitted Lockerbie. “Because if that project failed – moving the wickets to New York and putting them in – then I might as well not finish the stadium, because you can’t play on bad wickets.”

The main square now boasts four primary pitches, with six additional pitches allocated for practice sessions. Hough refrained from providing his definitive opinion on the pitches, stating, “Our ambition is to produce good-quality pitches – you know, minimal spin, minimal seam, the ball coming onto the bat, and let the players play the shots.”

All efforts culminated successfully as the organizers defied the odds and beat the clock to prepare a state-of-the-art modular stadium, ready to stage a number of high-profile matches. One of the marquee fixtures includes the India vs Pakistan clash on June 9. Additionally, India will play three of their four group matches at this venue, kicking off against Ireland on June 5.

The Nassau County International Stadium not only stands as a testament to remarkable planning and execution but also signifies a new dawn for cricket in the USA, aiming to leave an indelible mark on the global cricketing landscape.