Cricket in danger

By Joanna Farley

Riley Park has multiple uses. Kids splash in the wading pool, adults sunbathe and on Monday evenings and weekend afternoons, white-clad men flit across the pitch playing cricket. This activity may be in jeopardy.

"What was being proposed was a larger parks depot, but that’s a side issue," said Don Patrician of the Department of Programs and Development.

Parks and Recreation recently changed the terms of the Calgary and District Cricket League’s License of Operation when it came up for renewal. While former licenses have been granted for fifteen years, the new license offered by Parks and Recreation was for only three years. This concerned many members of the cricket community, such as cricket player and fourth-year Chemical Engineering student Mukul Ahuja.

"For hundreds in the Calgary community, cricket is their passion and Riley Park their home," said Ahuja. "It contributes immensely to the multicultural fabric of the city, bringing together people from various backgrounds and cultures together to enjoy a common activity."

Patrician says that the new lease was not for the normal term because Parks and Recreation is looking into the viability of cricket continuing at Riley Park.

"We have three reasons why. First, Riley Park is overused by sports people to the extent of conflicts between user groups. Second, the park is considered to be a regional park, and was never designed for structured sports like cricket. Third, with new developments surrounding the park, more people would like access to it for non-structured sport use."

However, surrounding communities such as Sunnyside-Hillhurst have come out in strong support for the continuation of cricket at Riley Park since the league rejected the new license.

"We have continued to rally support for cricket within the city and have received resounding support from the community," said Ahuja, who is the founder and Secretary of the Cavaliers Cricket Club, formerly known as the University Colts Cricket Club, and also the Junior Coordinator for the CDCL.

Patrician agrees.

"What we’re [Parks and Recreation] finding is that more people are providing support for the CDCL. We’ve talked to residents and aldermen and others and we’ve made it clear that the CDCL will not be moved until a suitable location can be found for them."

The amount of history attached to cricket at Riley Park makes the league adamant about staying. The CDCL has played at Riley Park since its formation in 1908 and has hosted a game in which Sir Don Bradman-cricket’s greatest player-played in 1932.

"There is almost 100 years of cricket history and tradition at this park. There is a certain aura about Riley Park that no other cricket facility I have ever played in has," said Ahuja.

"That they’ve been there since maybe the 1890s is in their favor," admits Patrician. "Ward Alderman Druh Farrell stated that she understood [our] reasons but made it very clear that she would support her communities."

With this in mind, Patrician says managers at Parks and Recreation will soon be meeting internally to decide if an offer will be made to the CDCL for 15 years.

Until that time, the CDCL plans to continue negotiations and continue to gather community support by holding such events as open houses and the return of the Monday Night League. "The CDCL executive is working in negotiating the lease term such that we don’t lose our park in the future," said Ahuja. "The league has also initiated new projects in order to promote the game and awareness of the game in the city."

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