Cricket players using a baseball stadium?
Paula Peterka of Crownsville, who regularly attends minor league baseball games at Prince George's Stadium, doesn't think it's so unusual anymore.
"It's nifty. I like it," Peterka, 38, said on a recent Sunday as she watched her second cricket match between the DC Forward and the Jersey Fire on the same field used by the Bowie Baysox Class AA team.
"I wish I knew more of what's going on," Peterka said as she tried to figure out what the announcer meant by "lost wickets" and other play-by-play staples of the popular English game. "But it's a lot of fun to watch, and I think I'm starting to pick up on everything."
Baseball and cricket may seem an unusual pairing to those who have never seen a three-hour cricket match. But stadium managers and officials at the nascent American Pro Cricket League say that it's a perfect alliance. Cricket, after all, is considered the grandfather of baseball, which evolved from a two-base version of cricket called "rounders."
The addition of the cricket matches means more use for the stadium.
"They were looking for more things to do, and we were looking for some good stadiums to hold the games for the perfect match," said Kamal Verma, owner of the league's eight cricket teams, which are spread out across the country.
"For our community, it's going to give more people here another opportunity to come see a sporting event other than baseball," said Mike Munter, general manager of the Bowie Baysox. "We hope that people who come to the cricket games will also come to the baseball games, and vice versa."
Indeed, the stadium this year hosted a number of events that were not related to the Baysox. Last month, it held the annual congressional baseball game between the Republicans and the Democrats. That was followed by the Allen Iverson Celebrity Summer Classic softball game, which drew 9,000 fans and a bevy of stars, such as the NBA's LeBron James and rhythm and blues artist Ginuwine. A few days later, a boxing match brought in 9,285 to see Laila Ali, daughter of former heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali, knock out Nikki Eplion in the fourth round.
Since April, 25 drive-in movie nights in the stadium's parking lots have drawn hundreds of carloads for $15 each. Recent films have included "The Wizard of Oz" and "Grease."
"We're here to make money on these events," Munter said, "and have fun. We need to raise the level of awareness for this stadium, and other events are helpful in doing that."
Prince George's Stadium remains a bit of an unknown in the region, despite its prime location at Routes 50 and 301. Average attendance at Baysox games has been declining steadily each year, from an Eastern League-leading 463,976 fans in 1995 -- the stadium's first full year of existence -- to 329,679 last year, which worked out to 5,072 per game. This year, things aren't looking much better. Through Aug. 8, average attendance at the Baysox's 52 home games was 4,721.
At full capacity, the stadium holds more than 10,000, including 3,000 reserved seats and 5,000 general admission seats.
This is the first summer that stadium managers have been successful booking events on days when the Baysox don't play -- about half the days of the summer.
Marty Wynn, chief executive of Raging Promotions, the organizer of the Ali-Eplion fight, saw the Baysox stadium sign one day and decided that the outdoor setting would be a great place to replicate the historic 1974 Muhammad Ali-George Foreman fight in Kinshasa, Zaire -- the famous "Rumble in the Jungle."
Wynn, a Mitchellville resident, said he wanted the fight to be in Prince George's County, "knowing that P.G. County has never had that type of exposure in years." The event generated $336,000 in ticket sales, he said.
Corrigan Sports Enterprises of Baltimore was on the hunt for an arena to hold the Scion Thrash and Jam festival, a skateboarding event that also features live bands. The group considered RFK Stadium in the District and several university sites but eventually reserved Prince George's Stadium.
"Hats off to Mike Munter for being so aggressive," company President Lee Corrigan said of the manager's cooperation and willingness to partner and promote the event. The festival, which will host some well-known skateboarders, expects to draw between 7,000 to 10,000 people each day this weekend.
"It's kind of like the X Games meets the 'HFStival,' but on a smaller scale," Munter said. "It's another way of using the real estate that we have here."
These non-Baysox events account for about 10 percent to 15 percent of overall revenue, said Munter, who would not disclose specific numbers. "That's pretty significant and it's growing."
During the recent cricket match, Peterka said she would like to go to another cricket game, but that she would first have to go online and look up the sport's rules. A DC Forward batsman hit the ball over the fence. Claps and shouts erupted.
"Oh, and it's outta here," Peterka said. "And that's six runs. That's six runs if it goes all the way out. I figured that out."