The scenic surroundings of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) stadium in Dharamsala, embellished by the snow-capped mountains of the Dhauladhar ranges, are set to play host to the upcoming ODI World Cup, which gets underway in India on October 5.
If you are planning to watch a game at HPCA Stadium during the World Cup, here’s all you need to know:
Capacity: On paper, the stadium, in the heart of the town, has a capacity of 20,200, but some seats will not be in use to accommodate the sight-screens. It is an open stadium with no pillars blocking the view. The stadium has come a long way, from 8,000 seats in the initial stages to 18,000 at the 2016 T20 World Cup. There are eight general stands for the fans with temporary ramps to facilitate entry.
Hospitality boxes: Seventeen corporate boxes have been built for the event. Each box can seat 25 people with the best of facilities: food, drinks, and a television set. Of the 17 boxes, nine have been earmarked for the BCCI, ICCI, family members of the teams, and sponsors, and nine boxes are for sale. A club lounge with 800 people gives an amazing view of the ground with the Dhauladhar Ranges in the distance. The ICC will have access to ¼ of the capacity. A state-of-the-art marquee area on the ground floor will be an added facility for the World Cup.
Practice facilities: The practice area has 10 relaid pitches that cater to all the needs: bounce, turn, and seam. The new nets make the area attractive with floodlight facilities. In addition, due to the weather conditions, excellent indoor facilities are also available, including a state-of-the-art gymnasium with rehab facilities, which has received praise from visiting players.
Pitches: There are nine pitches, three for the World Cup, prepared by Sunil Chauhan. The pitches at the HPCA Stadium have always been rated high by the players, especially the bowlers. The black soil gives the pitches a true bounce. The emphasis on true bounce makes pitches in Dharamsala the most exciting feature of the set-up. The dew factor is taken care of by anti-dew spray. A team of 17 ground staff has worked tirelessly to spruce up the cricket facilities.
Drainage and outfield: Dharamsala has an excellent drainage system. It’s an air evacuation mechanism that can evacuate any amount of water within a few minutes. This also allows aeration for the roots of the grass, keeping it healthy all the time. Dharamsala predominantly being a cold weather region, the grass selected here is ryegrass, and to withstand summer heat, it’s over-seeded with a heat- and shade-tolerant grass variety called paspalum. The profile of the outfield is a 450-mm sand and gravel layer, with a huge network of pipes beneath.
An area that needs attention is a patch of fungus outside the 30-yard circle that requires treatment. The organisers are being guided by the ICC pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson. The outfield was a reason for the India-Australia Test match being shifted from Dharamshala to Indore in March. The BCCI team is aware of the developments.
Entry points: There are 12 entry points to the stadium. Gate No. 1 brings in the teams and match officials. Comfortable walkways to the spectator area are a welcome comfort for the fans. The spacious approach to the spectators’ galleries is an important feature of the venue. Locals are used to walking long distances, but the organisers have made special arrangements with three huge parking lots at a distance of 500 metres to 1000 metres. Dedicated transport will be made available for the elderly and fans with special needs. The HPCA will have a team of young volunteers to guide people in and outside the stadium. The volunteers, picked through a selection process, have undergone special training to attend to the needs of the spectators.
Accessibility and challenges: There are issues related to parking, but the traffic on matchdays is managed efficiently by the police and volunteers. The experience of hosting IPL matches flawlessly would come in handy at the World Cup. Importantly, the self-discipline of the fans is what helps the organisers at big games. Spectators are known to fill up the stands in an organised manner by reporting much ahead of the entry, which begins three hours before the scheduled start.
In case of emergency: The exit routes have been marked, keeping in mind any emergency. Ambulances and medical facilities in the stands in adequate numbers will be available with easy access for the fans.
Dressing rooms: Special care has been taken to provide comfortable seats for the players, with dedicated lockers too. The organisers have kept ready facilities like sauna baths and ice bath tubs, an essential part of any dressing room in modern times. The dressing rooms are spacious and give the players a beautiful view of the ground.
Washrooms: The organisers will provide state-of-the-art washroom facilities for the paying public. There are 26 washrooms for the fans, with equal distribution for men and women. There are also provisions for fans with special needs.
Water: The HPCA is committed to providing free drinking water to the fans. The eateries will offer packed boxes and snacks at a reasonable price, with an emphasis on hygiene.
Floodlights: There are four LED towers with 400 LED fixtures. Efforts have been made to ensure no interruption in the supply of power by installing the best generators.
What’s new: Granite stone has been used in the stadium, and stunning landscaping makes it a breathtaking venue.
Facade lighting will make it a very attractive sight for the public, and the organisers plan to use it to woo tourists when there are no matches. As of now, stadium tours are organised by the local administration.
Areas that need attention: The organisers would love to have greater parking facilities closer to the ground, but the infrastructure around the ground—government schools and colleges—has helped them meet the extra demands during the big matches.
Hotels and tourism: The HPCA is much relieved with new properties coming up to boost the accommodation. Radisson Blu, Hyatt, ITC Amoha, Taj, and Lemon Tree add to the budget hotels in town and in McLeodganj. Fans can also combine cricket with some adventure sports, including paragliding, in Bill Billing. The state also boasts some iconic temples and monasteries.
Arun Singh Dhumal (IPL Governing Council Chairman)
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