Santa Clara County is moving forward with plans to build a cricket stadium at the county fairgrounds.

The county and Major League Cricket (MLC) announced an exclusive negotiating agreement Wednesday, Jan. 19, to move forward with lease negotiations and design approvals for a 15,000-person stadium planned to sit on 14-acres of the fairgrounds. A statement from the county says the region and its demographics make the fairgrounds the perfect spot for the stadium.

“Cricket is a sport that’s increasing in popularity in the U.S. and Santa Clara County,” said Supervisor Otto Lee in a statement. “The addition of an international cricket venue to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds would help attract large numbers of visitors from around the world to the region. We look forward to finalizing plans with Major League Cricket to move forward with this exciting development for Santa Clara County.”

MLC spokesperson Tom Dunmore told San José Spotlight the fairgrounds is an ideal location for a cricket stadium. He noted the South Bay is home to immigrants from many countries that play and watch the sport, but there is no dedicated stadium for cricket.

“We love the idea of adding to that land and helping develop that portion of San Jose,” Dunmore said.

Attempts at revitalization

The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds has been underutilized for years, as county officials attempted to revitalize it through different initiatives. In 2019, the Board of Supervisors voted to explore and evaluate a long list of options, including a cricket field, a county park, a hotel and a baseball stadium, among others — with a vision to create a space for public events and recreation.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez said the county is completing negotiations with the San Jose Earthquakes soccer team to use part of the fairgrounds for a training center. She noted cricket is popular in the county and a large number of matches have been hosted in the region.

“We have so many people in our community who really love the sport and are very excited about this,” she told San José Spotlight.

“How could (the stadium) take precedence over taking care of the most underserved and most vulnerable in our unhoused population?”

Todd Langton, Agape Silicon Valley

A group of advocates recently began a push for the county to open up the fairgrounds as a space for safe parking, encampments and services for homeless residents. Some are disappointed in the county’s decision to dedicate resources to a sports stadium instead of exploring ideas for housing and sheltering some of the region’s most vulnerable.

Todd Langton, co-founder of Agape Silicon Valley, told San José Spotlight he doesn’t understand why the county isn’t prioritizing building transitional housing when people are dying on the streets during an ongoing pandemic. In December, advocates commemorated 250 residents who died last year without shelter.

“How could (the stadium) take precedence over taking care of the most underserved and most vulnerable in our unhoused population?” Langton said, adding thousands of unhoused people need shelter in the county.

The 14-acre stadium site, which would include parking, is only a fraction of the more than 150 acres that compose the fairgrounds.

Seeking shelter

San Jose Planning Commissioner Pierluigi Oliverio told San José Spotlight the county could still use some portion of the land for shelter purposes. Oliverio, who has proposed creating an intake center for unhoused people at the fairgrounds, noted the stadium itself could even be repurposed at times for non-sports activities.

“The fairgrounds is a huge resource, 100 percent under Santa Clara County control, and the county could utilize it for the betterment of every neighborhood,” Oliverio said.

The county just entered negotiations this past June with the San Jose Earthquakes for a practice field and American Cricket Enterprises for a future stadium. The area is managed by Fairgrounds Management Corporation through a contract with the county. The facility still hosts events like weddings, dog training and off-track horse betting. The betting facility generated $856,976 from April 29 through October, with 4,000 visitors just in November.

The stadium is a key part of the proposed redevelopment of the 150-acre fairgrounds site.

Contact Nick Preciado at nicholas@sanjosespotlight.com. Contact Eli Wolfe at eli@sanjosespotlight.com or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

This story originally appeared in San Jose Spotlight.