Edgbaston has created its fair share of memories over the year. No cricket fan could forget the famous Ashes Test in 2005 when England snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to level up that memorable series but that is just one of many in 130 years of cricket at the ground.
However, come 2012, this world-famous venue could be dropped from the Test match circuit and those heady days of sell-out crowds and famous England victories could be a thing of the past.
Cricket in many ways is going down the same road football did more than a decade ago as clubs speculate to attract a larger slice of the increasing financial rewards on offer from Twenty20, Test matches and who knows what in the future as the forthcoming Stanford series sets a new precedent in income generation.
The upshot of this trend in football has seen the game completely transformed financially as clubs are no longer run along sound business principles.
Those with an oligarch continue to thrown money at players and infrastructure as they vye for the top honours while the rest in the Premier League walk an increasingly treacherous tightrope of investing in top players to stay up whilst trying to avoid going bust if they don’t.
It is a model that has snared a number of casualties with Leeds United suffering the most notable fall from grace but they are far from alone with a number of league clubs starting on minus points this season as their finances got the better of them.
It is a scenario that could easily play itself out in the world of cricket. Clubs across the country have borrowed millions to upgrade their facilities in a bid to persuade the England and Wales Cricket Board that they meet their increasingly challenging criteria for international venues and they have got themselves into significant debt to do it.
The trouble is that there are no guarantees that this will be money well spent as the length of staging agreements are drastically reduced. This is the predicament Warwickshire County Cricket Club finds itself in with Edgbaston.
While guaranteed Test status for another four years, after that, in its current state, there is a very good chance that international cricket could be lost to one of the up and coming grounds in Bristol or Southampton.
Convinced of this point at its AGM earlier this year, the club’s members agreed to allow the club to borrow heavily for a redevelopment that will give the club a fighting chance as an international cricket venue but to be able to pay this money back it has had to seriously look at other ways of generating income.
To help create a development that will help pay for itself on non-cricketing days, WCCC bought in international architects Broadway Malyan with a significant track record in delivering this kind of project.
Mike Guy, from Broadway Malyan, said: “Primarily the drive of the club is to enhance facilities to maintain test match status but as the game evolves with things like Twenty20 it is also important to increase the stadium’s capacity. There is also the reality that the venue will only enjoy full capacity of six days of the year so it was important for the club to create a facility that could be used on non-match days or the other 349 days of the year.”
A study by the club concluded that there was a need within the city for improved banqueting and conferencing facilities and so the development will feature a banqueting hall catering for up to 500 people as well as a 10,000 sq ft exhibition space and the relocation of the club museum.
“This will see the club become part of Birmingham as a venue, not just for cricket,” said Mike. “It will enhance Edgbaston as a destination for a whole range of events from exhibitions to institute dinners. In time this will be linked to the second pahse of the development which will feature hotels, bars, shops and some residential.”
Mike said the other main aspect of the project was to make the whole venue more welcoming and accessible.
He said: The main ground is enclosed and shut off when it is not open on match days. The new design will take the wall away with the new building being the front of the ground with a new plaza in front of the club.
“Other people will judge the look of the new development but we believe it will project an image as a piece of architecture for those driving past the ground and on the TV it will be a signature building that everyone will immediately recognise.”
Let’s hope it is a plan that will ensure the old ground provides memories for many years to come.