The Historic Kensington Oval Cricket Ground on Barbados
As a former British colony, cricket holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Barbadians. In fact, cricket plays an important part in the history of the island itself and provides important economic stimulus even today. The historic Kensington Oval (lovingly called “the Mecca” of cricket) is the islands premiere world-class cricket facility. It was established nearly 140 years ago and is officially the oldest cricket ground in the New World. But you wouldn’t know that if you looked at it today.
The Kensington Oval: Humble Beginnings
The massive complex has grown over the years to accommodate more than 11,000 fans but in the beginning the facility was much smaller. In 1882 the Pickwick Cricket Club leased a paltry 4 acres of fields from the Kensington Plantation in order to build a pitch on which club members could play recreationally.
In 1914 the oval was purchased by the Barbados Cricket Committee (which would later become the Barbados Cricket Association) and underwent the first of many improvements and enlargements. With the acquisition of new patrons with international pull, the Kensington Oval began calling cricket players from around the world home to Barbados.
The oval’s reputation and popularity only grew through the middle and latter portions of the 20th Century. Unfortunately the facility couldn’t accommodate the tremendous demand. It underwent a massive overhaul in the late 1990s, acquiring several more acres of land and renovating the facilities. By 2004 the stadium seating could hold 14,500 fans and the footprint of the modern facility that exists today had been created.
2007 Grand Reopening for the Cricket World Cup
In the early 2000s the stadium was selected to host the 2007 Cricket World Cup. Organizers found the outdated seating and facilities inadequate so the Kensington oval was closed for 20 months as many of the buildings were torn down and redesigned from the ground up.
This $45 million improvement and expansion project was designed by Dipesh Patel of Arup Group of United Kingdom. His unique modern vision of the Kensington Oval embraced the rich history of cricket on Barbados while moving the sport into the 21st Century. One of the main focal points of the stadium is the massive statue of His Excellency, The Right honorable Sir Garfield Sobers, national Hero of Barbados and noted cricket all-star, which dominates the entrance.
With improved seating and recreational facilities for fans, much more room for media and the players to interact, and an exclusive Players Pavilion The Kensington Oval is truly a world-class sporting facility unlike any other.
Dipesh’s designed won multiple architectural awards and when the Cricket world cup landed in Barbados the sports world stood in awe of this 12.5 acre sports Mecca.
Events Other than Cricket
With such a large facility centrally located on the island, it’s no surprise that the Kensington Oval has been used for much more than just cricket over the years. The facility has played host to numerous sporting events including soccer, hockey, and other field sports. It has also become home for the Miss Barbados Beauty Pageant and showcases numerous cultural events throughout the year.
Rihanna, the noted Barbadian pop star, played her first concert on her home soil at the Kensington Oval during her Loud tour in 2011.
Witness the Spectacle
The Kensington Oval is an excellent place to immerse yourself in the culture of Barbados in a festive atmosphere. Spend the day in among the crowd while you enjoy beverages from one of the 6 bars and food from one of 18 concessions. In the Player’s Pavilion you can enjoy exclusive service and luxurious perks. There’s also a pool area in which visitors can relax between matches! You don’t have to be a cricket fan to enjoy the spectacle of the sport.
For more information visit the Kensington Oval Official Website