New cricket facility planned for northeast Calgary

Cricket players in northeast Calgary could soon have their first batting nets in that part of the city.

Right now players have to travel to Riley Park or Inland Athletic Park, both in northwest Calgary, to play and practice.

Batting nets allow bowlers and batsmen to practise within the confines of a narrow, netted lane without having to chase cricket balls around a pitch. They’re a vital part of practice and warming up properly before matches.

The single batting net at Riley Park is several decades old. There are two other nets at Inland Athletic Park, and only five or six places to play cricket across the entire city.

The sport is especially popular in Calgary’s South Asian community.

A new facility with three new practice nets at Westwinds cricket ground in the northeast, where most players live, would make it easier for more players to practise closer to home.

It would also benefit young players and kids in northeast communities who can’t travel far but want to try the sport.

“This is going to be the first of its kind in the northeast area, which would be accessible to any Calgarian,” said Sabeel Khan, president of the Calgary and District Cricket League.

The league has been active in Calgary for more than 100 years and currently has more than 1,000 players.

President of the Calgary and District Cricket Club Sabeel Khan says he hopes the project can be funded with some help from the provincial government as well as donations from cricket players in Calgary. (Submitted by Sabeel Khan)

“It would immensely help bring up the quality of cricket in the city,” said Khan. “If you have three nets available at any time of day, anyone can grab a partner and come and use it. This would provide a much-needed facility for our city.”

The organization says it has received conditional approval from the City of Calgary to proceed with phase one of the project at Westwinds.

The league is hoping to raise funds from the provincial government and donations and contributions from sponsors and members. The cost of the project is around $65,000.

“We’ve requested the provincial government fund a portion of the project and we’ve applied for that,” said Khan. “The remaining portion would be raised through sponsors, well wishers and cricket lovers in the city. There’s a campaign that’s going to be running soon.”

The project is welcome news to players of all levels who have been used to making do with no new facilities for years.

“I’d always wondered, with the amount of people who play in the northeast, why we don’t have more cricket grounds and facilities like practice nets,” said cricketer Hamza Tariq, who has played for Canada’s national team. 

“It could be people my age or young kids picking up the sport. It’s going to be great for everyone in the northeast community,” said Tariq.

Omaima Waqar is vice-president of the Alberta Women’s Cricket League. She says the project will allow women who can’t travel to other facilities a chance to practice and play. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Others say it will help improve the women’s game and help more women try the sport.

“We’ll have more places to practiSe and these are the first nets in the northeast, where a lot of women and other players live,” said Omaima Waqar.

“The nets are crucial to improving your cricket because rather than going on a pitch and playing, spending time collecting balls and having enough fielders to help practise, in nets you just need two people,” said Waqar. 

“You can do that for hours,” she said.

Construction could start by late spring with the nets open for use by summer.

Once phase one at Westwinds is complete, the league has plans for a clubhouse.

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