Cricket players in Plymouth have been asking for a place to play for years, and the west metro city is finally granting their request.
A cricket pitch to accommodate the fast-growing sport will be one of the prime amenities of the Meadows, a park the city plans to build over the next two years on a weedy field on the southwest corner of Peony Lane N. and Chankahda Trail.
"We are tired of playing on driveways and cul-de-sacs," said Milind Sohoni, a Plymouth resident who led the effort to get the facility included in the $6 million park project. "People get injured if they slide on a driveway. You play with a hard ball and have to have a specific ground."
Played on an oval-shaped field, cricket has similarities to baseball in that one team hits a ball and attempts to score runs while the team in the field attempts to get the batters out. An inning ends when all 10 batters are out, and the 11-member teams then trade positions. The team scoring the most runs wins the match.
Sohoni played cricket growing up in his native India, where the sport is close to a religion. The game, dating to the 16th century, is believed to have started in southeast England. As the British empire expanded, cricket spread to places such as Australia, New Zealand, southern Africa, the West Indies, India and Pakistan.
But the game never really caught on in the United States until more recently. The Minnesota Cricket Association began in the 1980s. And this summer, Major League Cricket made its debut with six teams in the United States.
Cricket pitches have popped up in recent years in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, Chaska and Maple Grove.
Sohoni, a Wayzata school board member, moved to Plymouth in 1995. As others who had played the game growing up followed, he saw the need for a pitch. He first brought the idea to the city in 2019.
"There is just a lot of pent-up demand," he said.
The new pitch in Plymouth shows how the city is responding to its changing demographics, said Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Tomlinson, who noted the sizable Indian population in the northwest part of the city of 80,000 residents.
"There is a very active cricket community here," Tomlinson said. "It's another way to show we are listening to all residents. We are super excited to bring it to the community."
The Meadows will also include two soccer fields, lighted tennis and pickleball courts, a skating rink, trails, sledding hill and a bicycle course. Construction is expected to begin in 2024.
Sohoni and Tomlinson said the pitch could be used for practices, leagues and tournaments, and to introduce the game to those who are unfamiliar with it.
"The goal is to have those who have never played to come watch and play," Sohoni said. "This is a prime example of how diversity, equity and inclusion should be a part of decisionmaking."