The official launch of the newly refurbished Bradford Park Avenue cricket ground has been hailed as great day for cricket in the district.

England captain Joe Root was on hand to cut the ribbon to open the first stage of the multi-million pound development. The first stage consists of a new eight wicket artificial outdoor practice area and community pavilion.

The development is a partnership between the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) and Bradford Council. The plan is for the ground to be upgraded over five stages by 2019.

Around 200 local schoolchildren played games on the famous outfield joined by a host of guests and dignitaries.

“I’m absolutely delighted it’s come to fruition, this is a very special day for Yorkshire Cricket and Bradford,” said Mark Arthur, YCCC chief executive.

“You stand on a disused cricket ground that has hosted 306 first-class matches since 1881 but has lain fallow for 20 years and you think, can’t we do something with this?

“We had something within a mile of the city centre with a large British-Asian population who are mad for their cricket. That’s where the germ of the idea came from for having a first-class cricket ground for the community.”

The second stage of the project – upgrades to the playing surface and scoreboard, is now also complete.

Mr Arthur confirmed that plans are in motion for the return of Yorkshire first team fixtures to the ground for the first time since 1996. This is alongside the existing commitment for the ground to host elite international women’s and disabled cricket.

He said: “We’ve laid 11 new first-class pitches, there are six still to do, built a new scoreboard and groundsman’s facilities, and we now have probably the most inspirational outdoor nets anywhere in the country.

“Hopefully the community will understand what we’ve got here and what can be achieved.

“If through this facility we can get the first Bradford Muslim girl to play for England in ten years’ time, won’t that be fantastic.

“We hope in the future to hold women’s international cricket here, Yorkshire Diamond’s women’s cricket, England disabled cricket, and probably one day of Yorkshire cricket per year, a 50-over game. The rest of the time it is for the community to use.”

The final three phases of the project incorporate the construction of a new County Cricket standard pavilion, a 250-capacity restaurant, more than 5,000 new seats and ECB-standard floodlights.

The ECB chose Bradford as one of five cities in which to engage more closely with South-Asian communities, with an initial focus of increasing the number of pitches available for community use.

Kersten England, chief executive of City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, said the facility was “another milestone in the resurgence of Bradford.”

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