CRE investor eyes Orlando's tourism corridor for new U.S. Cricket League

Pennsylvania-based Global Sports Ventures has named Orlando among eight U.S. markets targeted for a new professional cricket league it plans to launch by 2020, and has hired JLL's Sports and Entertainment Group to lead site selection for a potential mixed-use complex where it would build a stadium, retail, hotels, residential and more.

JLL has started site selection for the U.S. Cricket League's proposed stadium and mixed-use developments in the markets of New York; East Brunswick, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Orlando, Dallas, Chicago and San Francisco. 

Global Sports Ventures is headed by chairman Jignesh "Jay" Pandya, an Indian-American businessman who is the founder and chairman of Philadelphia-based real estate investment firm The Rohan Group, which has developed retail lifestyle centers and is one of the largest franchise owners of Yum! Brands, Inc.

Properties with access to highways or other main thoroughfares will be favored. Suburban sites could require 30 to 50 acres, but urban sites would need at least 20 acres for the stadium and clubhouse sites, with supporting mixed-use commercial to fill in on adjacent property, Pandya told GrowthSpotter on Thursday.

"Orlando for us all about the 60-plus million annual tourists, many of whom are coming from around the globe," he said. "With cricket the world's second most popular sport after soccer, we believe the fans will come out."

Retail and the stadium aspects of a mixed-use complex are in Pandya's wheelhouse, but other development partners could be sought in each market for office and multifamily segments, he added.

Site selection in Greater Orlando has focused thus far on Lake Nona and the tourism corridor, he said. A spokeswoman with Tavistock Development Company confirmed Thursday that Pandya's group had made a presentation to them in recent months.

"We prefer to be in Orange County, if possible," Pandya said. "By December we hope to have a site announced."

The prototypical stadium complex could include a cricket stadium, club house, restaurants, hotels, retail, residential and office space, per JLL. Global Sports Ventures estimates the first eight stadiums and surrounding development will approach $2.4 billion in investment.

The multi-purpose stadiums, estimated at 26,000 seats, are projected to cost between $70 million and $125 million each, with ancillary development adding up to $100 million of mixed-use product, according to David Demarest, international director at JLL leading the site search.

JLL's Sports and Entertainment Group previously provided real estate advisory services to the Atlanta Braves for its new SunTrust Park in Atlanta and adjacent mixed-use development "The Battery," which opened in April.

In 2016, Pandya purchased the St. Lucia Zouks (now the St. Lucia Stars) professional cricket club in the Caribbean Premier League. 

In February, Pandya's company announced a $70 million licensing agreement with the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) for the right to Twenty20 cricket, which is a shortened verison of the sport that is usually played in three hours, a game duration more in line with other U.S. sports that is much shorter than traditional cricket.

The eight target markets were chosen with a belief that cricket would already have an established following there, mainly through Asian populations. 

But in Orange County, residents of Asian ethnicity made up 5.6 percent of the population in 2016, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, up from 4.9 percent in 2010. For Osceola County the 2016 figure was 2.9 percent, barely changed from 2010. 

Despite that, support for cricket is growing in Central Florida, with multiple adult leagues and youth cricket academies established.

"We're excited about what Mr. Pandya is doing and hope he's successful in his endeavors because it will only help us grow the sport," said Rahul Joshi, executive director of the Florida Cricket Conference, which was established in 2010 and now has 20 adult teams across Central Florida playing year-round. 

"Outside of just the local population as a driver, you also have to look at the demographics and international demand," Joshi continued. "Last year two matches certified by the International Cricket Council were held in Lauderhill (near Fort Lauderdale) between the national teams of India and the West Indies. Those games sold out within minutes with a base ticket price of $80.

"So while those of Asian origin may make up a small percentage of the population here they often have deep pockets, and a willingness to spend to see star players from back home." 

The Carribean Premier League announced earlier this week it would hold matches in Lauderhill for the second year in a row in August, following high fan turnout last year. 

Cricket is played with a bat and ball by two teams with 11 players on each side, on a rectangular 22-year field. The bowler (pitcher) rolls the ball with a straight arm at high speed toward a batter, who tries to hit the ball into the field. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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