The Cayman Islands Government has agreed to offer the Cayman Rugby & Football Union (CRFU) a 99-year peppercorn lease on it’s single acre of crown land in order to more forward on it’s new facility.
The lease represents a crucial hurdle for Cayman Rugby as the single acre sits in the southwest corner of a 12-acre plot Dart Real Estate previously agreed to lease the association on a duplicate 99-year peppercorn agreement back in April.
“I am so grateful to both Dart and the Cayman Islands Government” said Rugby President Derek Haines. “It’s taken a few years, these things do. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Hopefully in the next few years, we’ll have a new, sparkling facility.”
Haines says all that needs to be done now is for government to rezone the area from it’s industrial status.
“That’s set to happen on the 14th of November.”
Cricket’s ‘pitch’ for Rugby’s pitch
Cayman Cricket Technical Director Peter Anderson knows the end is near for one of the sport’s most tattered facilities.
“Smith Road is on it’s death bed now. Every year, it’s common knowledge, we receive a letter year saying your days are numbered.”
The land where the Smith Road Oval lies is owned by the Cayman Islands Airports Authority. With no official agreement in place, Cayman Cricket has simply used it because, as many say, ‘that’s the way its always been.’ However, with more air arrivals than ever flying into Cayman, not to mention the extension of roads just north of the Smith Road Oval, the writing is on the wall.
“When those big jets come in, I just can’t see them getting away without having a bigger run way, and it only goes one way” said Anderson. “Let’s face it, we need another ground to expand. A lot of our kids play rugby and cricket. I think it’d be a fantastic partnership.”
Rugby’s President says he’s very open to the idea.
“I’m very excited about it” said Haines. “We’ve had preliminary discussions with the cricket association. They’re a major sport in Cayman. As a rugby association, it would be good to bring other sports in, and make it associated sports. There are some other discussions with security, and rugby controlling the grounds. We’ve had measurements taken, it’s possible to put a cricket square in between two rugby pitches.”
Haines, however, isn’t ready to sign off on a partnership just yet.
“I think there is still more work to be done, in terms of safety, cricketers running on what rugby played on the night before, in order to prevent injuries. It’s just discussions and well be taking it forward the best we can.”
What does cricket bring to the table? They say an opportunity to host international tournaments, something they say they’ve been forced to turn down in the past. As recently as this month, the International Cricket Council (ICC) solicited Cayman Cricket to host it’s Under-19 Championships. Cayman Cricket was forced to decline because of the condition of the Smith Road Oval.
“It’s no different from football, or any other organization. We get inspected, Government committed to us to be an associate member of World Cricket, and we need those two grounds” said Anderson.
Another enticement Cayman Cricket says they’re offering rugby? Money. After a successful year for the Men’s National team that will see Cayman play for a spot in the ICC World Twenty20, Anderson says the new ICC Rankings could see them receive up to $170,000 USD.
“When ICC release our ranking points over the next three months, we are very confident we are going to up ranking points, and hopefully more funding. We picked up nine ranking points last year. We are ranked 43rd in the world, we came from 52nd in 12 months. If we can get into 42nd or the late 30s, it would be a big boost in funding.”
Anderson adds he hopes the association can also join forces administratively.
“It can become a sports club with two separate boards under one umbrella, it would be a fantastic thing for the future. You can’t stand alone these days in a small place like Cayman.”
Haines, however, says the new sports facility will be open to all sports associations.
“The more the merrier. We obviously want to make sure it’s right everyone, and maybe others as well. Gaelic, Flag Football, all of these people are looking for ground, and we are all on a small island. As long as we protect our bases, and cricket does the same, everyone’s happy. I’m extremely optimist for sports in the Cayman Islands because of this development.”