The Wankhede stadium could soon be open to tourists for a tour of the iconic cricket venue, which has been host to several key matches, including the 2011 Cricket World Cup final where the Indian team lifted the trophy. State tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray on Tuesday announced that Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), which manages the stadium, has given its “in-principle” nod to opening the stadium for tours.
“We at the Tourism Dept had requested @MumbaiCricAssoc to work with us on opening up of Wankhede Stadium for a stadium experience tour to tourists and fans from around the world. They have agreed in principle to work together on the same,” Thackeray tweeted.
The concept is already popular abroad, with leading cricket, football and tennis clubs providing such stadium tour experiences. It also provides revenues to these clubs. Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu, Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, Barcelona’s Camp Nou, among others, are open to tourists and fans when matches are not held there. In India, HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala is open to tourists.
The minister added that apart from the Wankhede stadium tour, there will be a museum dedicated to Indian Cricket “emanating from Mumbai”. The proposed museum will either come up inside the stadium premises or at some other location in the city.
“Along with the stadium experience tour, I had discussed with Hon’ble Sharad Pawar sir earlier, and MCA President Vijay Patil ji, on having a museum of “Indian Cricket emanating from Mumbai”. The MCA has agreed for this as well, to be either in Wankhede or any suitable place,” he added.
Thackeray added that once the stadium is opened in Mumbai, it would be a place for “devotees of cricket”. He said, “I’m thankful to the MCA apex committee for this key partnership. For most of us, cricket is a religion. Wankhede is where India won the World Cup. This truly shall be a place for not just tourists, but for devotees of cricket and their favourite players.”
The decision fits perfectly in MCA president Vijay Patil’s vision to create a brand identity for Mumbai cricket. In his proposal during the MCA apex council meeting couple of months ago, other points he listed included expanding its digital footprint—using its stature and history—merchandising, making its website user friendly and upping its social media game.
Patil said the “details are still worked out” but he is happy with the development. “On the advise of Sharad Pawar (we) are establishing a cricket museum and (now) we are delighted to partner with MTDC to promote the iconic Wankhede Stadium as a must visit place for sports fan visiting Mumbai from around the world . My deep appreciation to Aaditya Thackeray for taking this initiative on behalf of Government of Maharashtra to promote Mumbai cricket,” he said.
Meanwhile, as an honour to MS Dhoni, a proposal had been mooted by apex council member Ajinkya Naik last month to devote “a permanent seat on his (Dhoni’s) name at the stand where his 2011 World Cup-winning six landed”. The MCA has identified the seat where the ball landed. The seat number is 210 in Block L of MCA Pavilion. It can also play a crucial role in attracting tourist to the Wankhede Stadium.
The MCA got a huge help from Sunil Gavaskar in this regard. “I got a call from a dear friend of mine from Hong Kong that the ball is with a friend of his who was sitting in that seat,” said Gavaskar in a mail to Naik. Later, he shared the pic with of the ball and match ticket which helped MCA identify the exact location.