YORKSHIRE are hoping to take county cricket back to Bradford Park Avenue.
The club are in talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board and Bradford Metropolitan District Council to discuss ways in which the famous ground could be redeveloped for the local community.
The ambitious scheme – the details and costs of which have yet to be established – could see Yorkshire return to the now derelict venue from 2019.
The club host an Ashes Test at Headingley that year, plus a one-day international against Australia and up to four games in the ICC World Cup, placing extra pressure on facilities in Leeds.
Yorkshire last played at Park Avenue in 1996, since when they have used only Scarborough’s North Marine Road as a satellite venue for first-team games.
That year was also the last time they took first-class cricket to Sheffield, Middlesbrough and Harrogate as the desire to buy their own headquarters – they eventually purchased Headingley in 2006 – took hold.
But the return of first-class matches to Bradford – the loss of which mirrored a national decline in outground cricket – is just part of the overall Park Avenue scheme.
The key element for Yorkshire, plus the ECB and local authority, is the boost it would give to the Bradford community, with plans to create new pitches and practice facilities not only at Park Avenue but also at five still-to-be-identified sites around the city.
Mark Arthur, Yorkshire’s chief executive, said: “It would be a popular move if the occasional Yorkshire game was held at Park Avenue in the future, but this is not about Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
“This is about giving the Bradford community more cricket facilities, both practice and playing, in the immediate and long-term, at a time when there is a shortage of cricket-playing facilities for them to enjoy.
“However, as we develop those facilities over a period of time, and as they continue to grow and improve, there’s no reason to believe that major matches cannot be played at Bradford, such as elite disability matches, elite women’s matches, Yorkshire Academy games, Yorkshire second team games and Yorkshire first-team games.
“In 2019, when we’re going to have an Ashes Test at Headingley, a one-day international and probably four World Cup matches, there will be huge pressure on the Headingley square, so there could be an opportunity to take a first-class Yorkshire County Cricket Club match back to Bradford Park Avenue.
“Fundamentally, though, this is about helping the local community and interacting with them as best we can.
“It’s also probably going to be a flagship opportunity for the ECB in that it’s the best situated inner-city ground in a city that has the fastest-growing population in the country.
“There’s a real shortage of pitches in the Bradford area, so this is a fantastic opportunity for us to regenerate Bradford Park Avenue for the benefit of the community at large.
“Then, further down the line, the hope is that we can hold elite cricket there also.”
The Bradford Playing Pitch Strategy, recently adopted by the council, reveals that the city currently has a shortage of 18 cricket grounds – a figure set to rise to 25 in seven years’ time due to population growth.
The ECB have given the council a five-figure sum to undertake a feasibility study into how this shortfall can be addressed, with the contract in the process of being put out to tender.
Yorkshire, the ECB and the council hope to be able to expand on matters relating to cost and timescale within six-to-nine months.
But it is hoped that new cricket nets at Park Avenue – there are plans for eight new artificial nets and four grass nets – will be up-and-running by 2016.
In addition, the partners hope that the redevelopment of Park Avenue will provide better engagement with Bradford’s Asian community, a huge number of which are cricket-lovers, at a time when participation in the sport is on the wane.
Figures published last month showed a decline in the number of people playing cricket nationwide from 908,000 in 2013 to 844,000 this year.
Part of that is due to a lack of provision.
Dan Musson, the ECB’s facilities and investment manager, said: “We want new spaces to play cricket in Bradford and an iconic facility in Park Avenue that can connect the local community right through to elite.
“At present, we can’t put an exact figure on the costs but it will be seven figures.
“We hope to have the visuals and costs early next year, but we’re basically looking at a new pavilion for Park Avenue, practice facilities, revamping the square, the outfield, and so on.
“It would be a new stadium, effectively.”
Bresnan keen to prove point in Big Bash
TIM BRESNAN last night said he is relishing the prospect of playing in Australia’s Big Bash League.
As exclusively revealed in The Yorkshire Post, the Yorkshire pace bowler is to play for Hobart Hurricanes in the showpiece Twenty20 tournament.
The deal is subject to Hobart’s Darren Sammy being named in West Indies’ final World Cup squad.
Bresnan, who is due to fly out on Boxing Day and play his first game against Aaron Finch’s Melbourne Renegades on January 7, said: “The Big Bash is a great competition. They put on a proper show and I can’t wait to get a taste of it.
“I’ve been to Hobart quite a few times with England. I love it, it’s quite laid-back – similar to myself – and it’s got some nice restaurants.”
Bresnan, who has recently recovered from a pectoral injury, added: “I feel fit and strong and just want to play some more cricket. Hopefully, I’ll come back and hit the ground running for Yorkshire.”