Elevate the cricket in the inbound picks from Bellevue, Kirkland and Seattle parks

Elected and professional cricketers at Tollgate Farm Park (Courtesy Claudia Balducci)

Pickleball aside, it’s time to give honor to another burgeoning sport in Puget Sound. “Cricket has grown exponentially in our area,” longtime Bellevue resident Yatin Aras said in an interview with The town planner. “The number of cricket teams has grown from six when I played here in the 90s to over 200 teams today in the amateur, recreational and youth leagues.”

This translates to over 3,100 active and organized players in the region, with many more cricketers playing casually and/or unorganized. The sport’s growth is perhaps most pronounced in the youth circuit. “There were no organized youth teams for my sons in 2010. Now there are four youth academies on the east side with 18 teams,” Aras said.

The expansion of cricket is not just for men and boys, but also for women’s and girls’ teams. There are six women’s teams organized in the recreational leagues with a strong pipeline formed with many girls participating in the youth leagues and academies. Jivana Aras, Yatin’s daughter, excelled in sports, competed on the United States Women’s Under-19 cricket team and currently plays in the National Women Cricket League.

Young cricketers playing a game
A youth cricket match (Courtesy of Vamshidar Rawal)

Despite the regional boom in cricket, Yatin Aras was quick to mention the limited infrastructure to support the cricketing community as resulting from the “growth [being] severely limited by lack of facilities. Cricket is a popular activity in the thriving South Asian/Desi community of Seattle and the Eastside, so in Puget Sound, cricket is an obvious parks and racial equity issue.

This dynamic should be a major consideration as some of the largest cities in King County consider renewing the park levy. Major population centers of the South Asian community like Nice view and Kirkland are currently working on new park fees. A golden goose for park dollars, Seattle plans to double park tax at $108 million. To keep pace with the growing community of cricketers, park fees must keep up and flow.

What is cricket anyway?

Cricket is a bat and ball game. If you are new to the game, you can learn more about its rules from the YouTube video below.

Cricket is usually played on an oval pitch. International Cricket Council standards require pitches with boundaries between 65 and 90 meters from the center of the pitch, so usually over 20,000 square meters in area. The smaller fields, which exist in the region, can vary between 11,000 and 13,000 square meters. For comparison, a football/soccer field is about 12,000 square meters. Depending on the type of cricket, these games last five days, a full day (7 hours) or half a day (3.5 hours). Typically, full day cricket is played.

Puget Sound Cricket Community

The sport is mainly played by Commonwealth countries, mainly Great Britain and the past and present territories. Based on a combination of immigration and other demographic dynamics, Puget Sound’s cricketing community is predominantly Indian/Native American, but other Commonwealth nationalities such as Australians, other South Asians, and West Indians / Caribbean are also represented. These same immigration dynamics are also fueling the growth and importance of youth cricket leagues.

Yatin and the boys playing cricket
Yatin and some local cricketers playing a game. (Courtesy of Yatin Aras)

Because our immigration system favors skilled workers and Puget Sound’s professional population has recently exploded, the population of immigrant children and U.S.-born children of migrants from Commonwealth countries is relatively new and growing. . Building Puget Sound’s cricketing infrastructure is perhaps most critical for this population of young people and their families looking to continue their cultural pastime in their new homes. Failure to provide them with appropriate cricketing facilities would have a particularly strong impact on immigrant children whose social capital and passion are linked to cricket.

In general, the Indian/American Indian population is growing rapidly in the Puget Sound area. Grouped in the 2020 Census with other “Asian” Americans, the Asian American population jumped nearly 50% between 2010 and 2020. That figure was an astonishing 80% for eastern cities, such as Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish. Kent and southern Snohomish County also saw a significant increase.

Now, five-year-old data from the 2017 American Community Survey, which breaks down Asian Americans on a more national level, has revealed major concentrations of Indian/American Indians everywhere. These populations are particularly large in the Eastside, with some census tracts having more than 30% or even close to 50% of the population being “Asian Indians”. Those numbers are likely even higher today with tens of thousands of Desi, or people from the Indian subcontinent counties of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh living in the Puget Sound, at least.

Indian demographic representation in the Puget Sound region
Dark areas indicate a large East Indian population. The black circles show where East Indians make up the highest percentage of Asian Americans. The larger the black circle, the larger the population of East Indians in a census tract. (Courtesy of AAPI DATA)

Local cricketers have organized themselves into four leagues. This includes the Seattle Thunderbolts, our local professional team and a young professional team. One level below is the amateur league with four divisions, 44 teams and over 903 registered players. The recreational league is more than twice the size of the amateur league and then there is the youth league. Further growth is limited by the number of facilities in the region.

Some activity has taken place around the construction of cricket facilities in Puget Sound. At North Bend Toll Farm Park, six recently opened turf fields. In 2020, a state-of-the-art facility opened in Bellevue. Recently, the King County Council passed a motion to support the construction of a Major League cricket ground to replace the Marymoor Park facility. Of course, not all cricket infrastructure news is always current, the cricket ground at North Robinswood Park in Bellevue will be lost due to the construction of the Bellevue Big Picture School. The ground Aras played on in the 90s was also lost. Historically, cricket grounds have been replaced or lost, rarely added. Often our local cricket community has to use temporary solutions with moveable pitches on pitches for other sports. It is time for the cities of Puget Sound to make significant public investments in this community.

Rental of a possible cricket facility
Rendering of a possible cricket facility at Marymoor Park (Courtesy of Major League Cricket)

Let’s fund cricket

As Bellevue, Kirkland and Seattle consider future park levies, supporting cricket should be a pronounced priority. The growing population of cricketers and the communities they come from should make this need for investment necessary and pragmatic. Especially for cities that aren’t Seattle, passage for parks funding isn’t guaranteed at the ballot box. Wise city governments should activate the vote of a growing Indian population and other cricketing communities to help pass their park taxes.

It is also good urban planning to create spaces for all members of your locality. Investing in cricket demonstrates the cultural competence of immigrant communities in Commonwealth countries. Plus, these types of investments are fun and exciting. They can produce professional cricketers like Jivana.

“With the possible introduction of cricket at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, we know that this second most-watched sport in the world will only grow in popularity in the years to come,” said Yatin Aras.

Why not jump on the bandwagon and send some of our own to cricket competitors around the world?

If you want cricket funded and sent to the polls, let your local elected officials and city governments know. Yatin and Jivana Aras both spoke at a Bellevue council meeting. Be like the Aras family if you want to support cricket, email your local council members, take part in town polls, testify at town council meetings and generally just engage with local government.

Portrait of Shaun Kuo

Shaun Kuo is a junior editor at The Urbanist and a recent graduate of The Jackson School at UW. He is originally from Seattle and has lived in Wallingford, Northgate and Lake Forest Park. He likes to explore the city by bus and on foot.

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