The University of Worcester has appointed the architects responsible for designing facilities at Lord’s and the English Cricket Board headquarters to draw up plans for an innovative new inclusive cricket centre in the City.
Located alongside the University of Worcester Arena on Hylton Road, the International Inclusive Cricket Centre will provide a new home for elite level, grass roots and recreational players, of all abilities and disabilities.
Worcestershire County Cricket Board forecasts an additional 8,000 users would benefit from the Centre every year, with a large proportion of these being young children, disabled athletes, women’s squads and students.
Mick Donovan, the University’s Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor and Head of the School of Sport and Exercise Science, said: “The University is proud to have created the UK’s first indoor sports venue specifically designed to include wheelchair athletes, in the University of Worcester Arena, which has been a huge success. We are delighted to now build on our commitment to providing outstanding inclusive sport and education facilities, through the creation of the International Inclusive Cricket Centre, which I’m sure will inspire generations to come, change perceptions on inclusion and unleash the potential cricket has to offer.”
The University has appointed David Morley Architects, arguably the world’s leading specialists in designing specialist sports facilities. Their completed projects include the indoor centre at the home of cricket, Lord’s Cricket Ground in London; Edgbaston Cricket Centre in Birmingham and the National Cricket Academy at Loughborough.
The estimated £8m cost of the new University of Worcester International Inclusive Cricket Centre, will enable the provision of extensive indoor net practice facilities for cricket at all levels, including all branches of disability cricket, as well as changing facilities, specialist sports science facilities and teaching areas.
Andy Mytom, Partner at David Morley Architects, said: “David Morley Architects’ ethos is to ‘enhance lives by design' so we are incredibly proud to have been invited to work with the University of Worcester and continue our work with the ECB to design these world class sports and academic facilities. The building will set a new benchmark for inclusive environments.”
Once the plans are complete they will be submitted to Worcester City Council for approval.
Worcestershire Cricket Board is an enthusiastic partner in the development, which the Board hopes will become an all-weather home for youth, grass roots and club cricket in the County. The Centre will also provide a unique new training facility, a cricket-ball’s-throw away from Worcestershire County Cricket Club (WCCC), which is currently the only first class county ground without a training facility on site.
Matt Rawnsley, Chief Executive of Worcestershire County Cricket Club, said: “We are really pleased to be working in partnership with the University of Worcester and the ECB to realise this project and develop a truly world-leading facility here in Worcestershire. We are very proud of our cricket heritage here in Worcestershire and combining our expertise with that of the University, the ECB and others is really exciting for the future of the game.”
Tom Raymond Hill, Cricket Development Director at Worcestershire Cricket Board, said: “This will be an outstanding new facility for Worcestershire and the sport of cricket as a whole and we’re delighted to be involved. The centre will bring so many new opportunities for people to participate in the sport at all levels and will no doubt inspire generations to come regardless of age, gender or ability.”
The Centre will also help attract and accommodate international tournaments and festivals, such as the World Series, being hosted in Worcestershire at present. The University hosted the Physical Disability series with the English Cricket Board (ECB), WCCC and Worcestershire County Cricket Board in 2018, when England, Pakistan and Bangladesh went head-to-head.
The University has been working with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to develop the right specifications for this badly needed, inspirational centre and to explore funding options. Once open, it is envisaged that the Centre will become the base of all national disability cricket squads, including the current blind, deaf, learning disability and physical disability teams, and will also provide a much needed boost for the women’s game.
Ian Martin, England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) Head of Disability Cricket, said: “The new cricket centre at the University of Worcester will provide a purpose built, state-of-the-art cricket facility for the region and will become the home for England Disability Cricket. This is an extremely exciting development bringing together the cricket world's leading disability programme and the globally acknowledged academic leader in inclusive sport.”
In recent years, the University of Worcester has developed an outstanding reputation for excellence in inclusive sport and earlier this year won a Guardian University Award in recognition of the international impact of this work.
Worcester was the first university in the UK to launch a degree in disability sport (2012) as well as making a huge success of the University of Worcester Arena (opened 2013), which is the first indoor sports arena in the UK to be purpose designed to include the wheelchair athlete. In the afterglow of the London 2012 Paralympics, Worcester led the way in developing and sharing best practice, being the first University to co-host the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships (2015) and, more recently, internationally, including much work in Japan and China, where the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and Beijing 2022 Winter Games, afford a global opportunity in helping to create a lasting legacy for inclusive sport – and the concept of inclusion more widely.
Earlier this year, the then Universities Minister, Chris Skidmore MP, praised the University of Worcester’s approach to developing inclusive facilities. “The University of Worcester, who have built their entire campus with accessibility in mind, are leading the way.” he said.