The government has awarded two national grants equating to almost 150 million Yen (US$1.32m) to develop an international cricket ground.
The Japanese government has incredibly awarded not one, but two national grants equating to almost 150 million Yen (US$1.32m) to develop an international cricket ground which will become a self-sufficient business in Sano City.
Sano City has been a long-term supporter of the sport becoming the first ‘City of Cricket’ in 2011, an initiative of the Japan Cricket Association (JCA) that targets cricket growth in partnership with city councils surrounding Tokyo.
The initial grant will set in motion Sano City's plans to invest a further 400 million Yen (US$3.5m) of its own funds to develop two ODI-accredited ovals in the small city that is 80km north of Tokyo.
Whilst in its early stages, the plan is for the Sano International Ground to reflect a mix of Japanese culture and cricket tradition. It will provide a truly unique experience for players and fans alike.
Only four years ago, the site of the new ovals was an abandoned local high school. Investment from Cricket Australia, New Zealand Cricket and ICC’s joint “ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Legacy Fund” has provided much-needed stimulus. A synthetic wicket, a turf block, improved outfield grass coverage and more recently a three-lane training net facility have all been developed.
There has also been further support through regular visits and guidance from ICC Development staff, Cricket Victoria staff and curators, and a facility expert from the England & Wales Cricket Board.
In addition, a second grant of 47,741,000 Yen (US$420K) has been awarded for ‘Cricket Town Sano' Development Project. This cash injection will create start-up capital for a business unit to promote sport tourism and create business opportunities in relation to the Sano International Cricket Ground. The short-term aim is to host an international event at the venue and build momentum
The vision for an international ground in Japan was cemented back in 2015 as a Sano City delegation headed by the mayor and key officials visited Lords’ Cricket Ground and was hosted by the Marylebone Cricket Club. In March of last year, Sano City recognized cricket’s growing stature by officially changing the name of the venue to the Sano International Cricket Ground and ensuring cricket was the main tenant. The recent funding announcement paves the way for their vision to become a reality.
JCA Chief Executive, Naoki Alex Miyaji is delighted with the government investment and is grateful to the part played in this by the ICC and the international cricket community. “We were given the opportunity to host the ICC Women’s World T20 regional qualifiers in 2014 and 2017 in Sano. These events have built awareness and interest in the sport, and has provided us with opportunities to increase the number and quality of facilities.
“It has also helped us build support from local businesses. This has ultimately inspired the city to look at developing a sports tourism strategy with cricket at its core. Regional city economies have struggled to adapt to Japanese societal changes and they are looking at unique ways to re-energise and re-stimulate – sports tourism, both domestic and international, is being seen as one innovative approach.”
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