San Antonio cricket players and fans celebrated the inauguration of Monterrey Cricket Ground in the city’s West Side alongside Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) on Sunday afternoon.
The two elected officials tried their hands at the sport – with mixed results – after the Patel Brothers won the final match of the first Hassan Babar (Gopi) Memorial T20 Cricket Tournament against the City Cricket Club.
The new field – only the second in San Antonio – was completed at the end of August, said Anwar Tahir, chair of the San Antonio Premier Cricket League and president of the San Antonio Association of Convenience Store Retailers.
“We are planning to play with other metropolitan cities – they can bring their families maybe and stay a week in San Antonio,” Tahir said. “It’s going to be more revenue for the City of San Antonio. … We are already in contact” with teams in Austin, Houston, and Dallas.
Most of the players hail from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, he said. “We have a couple of players from England, too.” They are doctors, engineers, and students, he added.
The first field was completed in O.P. Schnabel Park as part of a $50,000 allocation to construct two fields there. The City still plans to fund two fields there, but it has enhanced that plan – with additional funding – to develop the field at Monterrey Park as well, said Pelaez, who led the charge in City Hall to find funding for cricket fields in 2019.
“[City Manager] Erik Walsh listened to me – he asked what I wanted and I said, ‘This is going to sound strange, but priority No. 1 for me this year is I want to get another cricket field,'” Pelaez said. Walsh has found funding for three – but none of them can be in District 8, which doesn’t have the vacant greenspace yet has a large immigrant population from Asia.
“I don’t care where you put it, just give these people their cricket fields,” Pelaez recalled telling Walsh. Players “used to have to travel out of town to practice and play” or play on subpar, makeshift fields.
“Our next step is going to be lights,” he said, looking over a simple field that requires at least a 70-yard radius around the 22-yard-long “pitch” where one team takes a turn to bat a ball and score runs. Meanwhile, the other team will bowl and field the ball to prevent the opposition from scoring.
The first field at O.P. Schnabel Park is smaller than regulation size, but the Monterrey Park field satisfies international standards. The Monterrey field, located in District 5, is slated to receive lighting and additional amenities throughout 2021.
Teresa Myers, chief of staff for Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), said developing the cricket fields “highlights [the city’s] international feel” and the blending of cultures, noting that “Mayor Nirenberg, Councilman Pelaez, and myself, we’re all [a result of] combined cultures.”
The Indian and Pakistani communities are very important to San Antonio, Pelaez said. “They are our little engine of economic development in San Antonio that I think oftentimes gets overlooked. … When they came to me and said, ‘We want our parks to be relevant to us,’ I said, ‘Absolutely, that makes perfect sense.'”