Calgary cricket league forced to turn away hundreds

The Calgary Cricket League says it could double in size if the city constructed more cricket pitches.

League President Usman Khan says they have been forced to turn away hundreds of players because of a lack of field space. He says Calgary needs to catch up to other Canadian cities.

"There's only one natural turf wicket in Alberta, and that's in Edmonton,” said Khan. “The other big hub of cricket is Toronto, and they have 100 players per ground. I'm averaging in Calgary 600 plus per ground. That's the scarcity."

For now, some teams have to travel to Red Deer for matches. Khan fears the lack of fields will hinder the development of young athletes.

Razwan Saleem, the 23-year-old captain of the Patriots Cricket Club, says the league is in trouble because it can't expand within Calgary.

“Every year we're getting more and more applications for teams that want to create a third or fourth team, or even new teams, that want to come down,” he said.

“And everyone has problems where sometimes you have up to one month off, or three or four, just so everyone else can catch up and play the same games, so it's a real challenge because we're so short on cricket fields."

Officials aware of cricket needs

The city admits cricket's expansion in Calgary has been phenomenal in recent years and officials are aware of the growth and the needs.

Shelly Shea, with the parks and recreation department, says the city has a 10-year plan for recreation, and it's about halfway through it.

The plan outlines which sports are most in need based on participants, facilities and growth.

"We've been pretty successful with ice and soccer and some of those areas,” she said.

“Some of the secondary areas, we're now working towards those, and we really work towards multi-sport facilities. Cricket, because of the size of it, needs a really large piece of land. So it's a matter of finding that piece of land. It's a matter of what's available and how quickly we can get to it."

Shea admits it’s tough to meet all the city’s sporting needs.

Decision could be years away

"Cricket's expansion has been pretty phenomenal in the last little while, so we know there is growth, we know there are needs," she said.

The city will be looking at six options to add a new field, but says each one has its drawbacks — and it will be at least three or four years before it makes a decision.

Khan says the whole process has been slow and frustrating.

He wishes the time frame was much sooner, since the league has already been lobbying for years for more fields.

League officials are now in talks with other neighbouring communities -- such as Cochrane, Chestermere, and Airdrie - all in search of new space to play the game they love.

“That’s the best they can do until the city builds more pitches for a sport that continues to grow,” said Kahn.

With files from CBC's Kyle Bakx