With capacity crowds watching five-day-long matches, a stark dependency on amicable weather and a need for good lighting, cricket presents the designer with a unique set of challenges. Architect Director, Andrew Capewell, explores all the design considerations when creating a modern cricket ground.
It’s no surprise to any cricket fan that there are very specific rules in cricket governing the scale and geometry of the pitch and wickets – ‘the hallowed turf’.
In England, the ECB is the custodian of these rules, and the ICC maintains them internationally. At the Farington cricket ground in Lancashire, we are in the incredibly lucky position of being able to follow this guidance to the letter with not just one, but two brand new cricket pitches. But existing venues are a very different story. One of the interesting things about the governing rules is that if you look at just about every major cricket ground in the UK (and across the world), they are drastically different in shape, size and capacity.
The direction of play is really important in providing batter and bowler with an unencumbered view of the ball at all times of the day - under daylight or artificial light. Of course, this is important in many sports but it is particularly important for the batsmen as the ball travels at up to 90mph, threatening to break bones with every delivery!
At LCCC’s ground at the Emirates Old Trafford, we masterplanned the transformation of the 160 year old venue, including reorientation of the wicket to a near north-south axis. The result is that the transformed venue is now no longer at the mercy of sunlight, where previously, the late summer sun could put players in jeopardy or even stop play!
Cricket is a unique sport of skill, temperament and endurance. Outside of a test match, what other sporting contest can last for five days? Not only does this longevity affect the teams, but also the spectators. New formats of the game such as T20 and The Hundred are changing the match day experience and attracting new audience groups and families to a more dynamic, fast and furious occasion more aligned with other sports.
We need to carefully consider venue flexibility to offer comfort, amenities and a wonderful experience across all forms of the game. As designers, this means thinking beyond the experience whilst engaging with the field of play. We need to consider the broader ‘big day out’ and the propensity for spectators to move around the ground before, during and after play finishes while soaking up the complete cricketing experience.
Cricket is an incredible summer sport, but also one with a hugely weather-dependent season. An increasingly crammed cricketing calendar puts pressure on grounds to host more and more cricket during the summer window, with new pitch innovations yet to rival the traditional natural grass surface. In addition, large venues such as Emirates Old Trafford are also designed to host major concert events during the summer festival season. This is an important source of additional revenue, albeit adding further pressure on to the summer calendar.
Having created an outstanding summer sport and event venue, the final piece in the jigsaw is creating facilities for year-round use outside of cricket and outside of the summer - forming the basis for successful business 365 days a year. This framework for a multi-functionality facility was built-in at the outset of our venue masterplan for Emirates Old Trafford, incorporating super-flexible function spaces to host an array of event types from 10 to 1,000 people, with complimentary on site hotel accommodation included too.
The ongoing success of the venue transformation has come to inform our latest project for Lancashire Cricket, The Red Rose Grandstand and Hotel, due for completion in the summer of 2023. Designed to buttress the transformation of the venue and its multi-functionality, the development will see enhanced spectator and member amenities for cricket, a further hospitality and dining space with pitch views, and an additional 100 hotel rooms.
At the outset of every project, it is our philosophy to understand and capture the irreplaceable DNA, history and vision characterising that sporting organisation. Every sporting club is unique and bringing that unique character through within the architecture can be the difference between success and failure.
At Emirates Old Trafford we spent many hours talking to Lancashire Cricket about the nature of cricket in the region, and the broader history of the Old Trafford venue and its post-industrial dockside context. The venue masterplan emerging from these conversations ultimately resulted in the christening of The Point – reimagining the Red Rose county’s cricket venue for the post-industrial age as a red factory assembled machine for cricket and events.
The Point was something of a shock to the cricketing world when it first emerged. Legendary Lancastrian player and commentator David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd said at the time: ‘It’s bold and brash and says everything about us northerners – I love it!’
The venue masterplan has been implemented over the course of the last 10-15 years and stands as testament to the original vision. The rigour and design consistency inherent to the project has reinforced the strong identity of the club and the venue, resulting in much success on and off the pitch.
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