The Vernon Hills Cricket Club Hawks' match scheduled for Sunday in Century Park will mark the arrival of a new sport on the local scene.
Local cricket players, who for six years have been aspiring to have a home field, plan a short ceremony between matches at 12:45 p.m. to mark the occasion.
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"Someone from our board will throw out a pitch or two," said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director of the park district. "It'll be interesting to see."
Tom Ritter, superintendent of recreation, worked with the club to have a cricket pitch -- essentially a long, narrow concrete rectangle topped with an artificial surface -- installed in the grass between the two ball fields in the northeast section of the park.
The pitch is situated in the center of an oval playing field 120 yards in diameter just north of Big Bear Lake.
"It's big," said Ritter. Other than marking a dashed line around the perimeter with paint or chalk, no other preparation is needed.
Since being included last year on an extensive list of park improvements, word of the pending project piqued the interest of area players, according to team officials.
The Hawks' roster of about 17 players doubled and a second team was created before signups were capped, according to Bobby Tuli club manager. Players are white-collar professionals from Vernon Hills and neighboring communities.
"The fact that there is now a great cricket ground in Lake County and we don't need to travel to other far west or south suburbs is a dream come true for our team," he said.
Tuli said the club expects more teams and players to participate next year.
Sunday's matches will be the second of the 15-game regular season, which runs until early September. The Hawks are among about three dozen teams in the American Cricket Conference, which was founded 10 years ago.
Hawks' players also have agreed to teach in an instructional cricket program for youths to start in June.
"Ultimately, this will culminate in that there will be enough interest that we can start our own league," Ritter said.
Though not the determining factor, the cricket pitch was listed as one of the unique features that can benefit various age groups in a successful park district application for a state grant. The district received $400,000 to be applied to the $1.8 million in Century Park improvements.
A pavilion that can be rented year-round is scheduled to open in early June as a main feature of the project. Other amenities nearing completion include: two outdoor shelters; a fishing pier; new lighting and bike paths; a basketball court; sand volleyball court; a fitness playground for older kids; bocce ball courts; and space for "bags" games and horseshoes.
Restoration of a portion of the Big Bear Lake shoreline, as well as interpretive signs are part of the project.