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Play time for New Town

Driving up the Main Arterial Road of New Town from the Salt Lake side, while approaching City Centre 2, just before a lane veers off to the right, a big stretch of land can be seen being levelled. Water is being sprayed and survey instruments are measuring the alignment. This is where a cricket playground is coming up measuring around 138m by 80m.

“New Town is such a big township that it has to have its own playgrounds. There is a provision for playground in the township plan as well. A huge demand exists from residents. Corporate companies approach us for space where they can host their office-level matches. Last year, the Cricket Association of Bengal held a coaching camp in New Town and told us that they would hold such camps here regularly provided we give them a good field,” said Debasish Sen, chairman of Newtown Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA).

A senior official of NKDA said that construction had started and it would take another year for the playground to be match-ready. “We are expecting local and corporate cricket to be played here,” he said. The project cost is estimated to be about Rs 2 crore.

A gallery with seats for 200 people would be constructed along with a pavilion. A giant scoreboard would be put up to help spectators follow the action. For the laying of the pitch, advice would be taken from an expert curator.

The playground would generate regular income for NKDA. “But residents can use the ground for a much lower rental than what we would charge the companies,” assured Sen.

Options in hand

Office-goers in Sector V or New Town who regularly play corporate cricket, are delighted at the news of a well-equipped ground coming up close to their workplace. The players now have to travel all the way to the grounds in the residential areas of Salt Lake even for practice. There are cricket pitches in the parks in FC, FD and BF blocks. “The pitches are maintained by the municipality. Though free for residents, the charge for institutional bookings is Rs 3,000 per day. For net practice at FC Park, Rs 500 is charged for every two hours. The demand is so much that many have to be turned away, especially in winter,” said former secretary of Budhannagar Municipal Sports Academy Prabir Das, who has retired from service in December.

Soumyabrata Das, captain of Ericsson India Global Services’s cricket team, played Lexmark Cup last year at FD Park. “We also practise there quite often.” But it does not tick all the boxes in terms of facilities. “Just a good pitch is not enough. There are certain problems that we face while playing there. A good wash room is a necessity so is a room to change into sportsgear and back. A gallery is badly needed. So if a playground comes up in New Town with all the facilities necessary for cricket then it is a great news for us,” said Das, a resident of Bansdroni.

Kabindra Banerjee, secretary of Salt Lake Sports and Cultural Club, said they would shift the club’s annual Rabindranath Banerjee Memorial Trophy to the New Town ground if it offers better facilities. “Most of our playgrounds are located inside residential blocks. On several occasions, we have had block residents protesting against us playing in their park. Even a permission letter from the civic body does not help. The condition of the majority of the fields is not appropriate for playing cricket,” said Banerjee.

Cricket is not the only sport that the NKDA is developing infrastructure for. “We are coming up with a swimming pool in Action Area I. The plot has been earmarked. Another playground exclusively for badminton and volleyball would be ready within a month,” said the official.

A football ground, measuring about 90m by 90m, has long come up in Action Area 1. “The decision was taken when residents started complaining about the lack of a playground,” said a senior official of NKDA. About Rs 60 lakh was spent to build the ground.

The gates are open daily from 5am to 8.30am for public activities like morning walk, yoga, jogging etc. The ground can be accessed again from 4pm to 7pm. “Tournaments like New Town Football League are played here with participation from residents of different housing complexes. Corporate matches are played here too. There is a huge demand for the venue to host corporate football tournaments,” said a senior official of NKDA. He added that residents would always get first preference if there was a clash of demand between private firms and residents.

Residents use the ground for other sports as well. “The parks that have come up here are meant for children. With playing equipment like see-saw, swings or slips fitted all around, we cannot play football or cricket there. So we play these games as well as badminton here,” said Rajdeep Karmakar, a student of St. James School who stays in Sree Abasan.

As the ground is maintained by NKDA, there is a charge for booking it. For matches or tournaments featuring residents like the New Town Football League, the rate is Rs 60 per hour. In case of corporate matches, the rate is Rs 500 per hour. Applications for booking have to be addressed to the CEO, the chairman or the executive engineer of NKDA at 3 Main Arterial Road, New Town, Calcutta 700156.

The playground is closed every Thursday for maintenance.