Live connected. Live well.
Nothing says “All-America” quite like the diversity of the Town of Morrisville, NC. Recognized by Money Magazine as the tenth best place to live in the U.S. in 2020, and the No. 1 best place to live in North Carolina (Niche.com) during that same time span, Morrisville is one of the fastest-growing and most diverse towns in North Carolina. In 2019 the Chamber of Commerce (national website) ranked Morrisville the No. 2 Best City to Live in North Carolina and WalletHub.com ranked Morrisville the No. 3 Best Place to Raise a Family in North Carolina. Since 2000 Morrisville’s population has ballooned from 5,000 to nearly 30,000 residents. The Town’s make up includes the largest concentration of Asian Indian residents in the region. These are just a few of the accolades the Town has garnered in the last few years.
Morrisville is located adjacent to North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park – a national hotbed of technological development, hosting over 300 companies and 50,000 workers. The Town’s economy is based on highly skilled professional and technology industries, and a population that is diverse, affluent and highly educated. As a result, the local median household income is now $103,000, almost twice the state average of $54,000.
“Live Connected. Live Well.” is the Town’s brand tagline and philosophy. When surveyed, citizens communicated they value the connection they feel when in the Town. The connection they have to global businesses, opportunities, the great outdoors, and most importantly, to each other. Morrisville is a place to gather together, to talk with neighbors and engage with Town leaders. It is a warm and welcoming community. The community embraces small town ideals with all the conveniences and amenities of a metropolitan city.
The idea of living connected and living well guides the Town’s decision-making processes in all areas, and has been the catalyst for infrastructure improvements including roadways, greenways and recreational facilities. Greenway development alone has become a priority for the Town as an alternative mode for transportation, recreation and promoting a healthy lifestyle. The Town recently completed the most significant single greenway corridor in the regional system. The project includes 2.9 miles of greenway, crossing a major thoroughfare (NC Highway 54), via a tunnel that allows access under a railroad.
The Town partnered with the North Carolina Railroad Company to replace the old bridge crossing with a new and longer bridge that accommodates the greenway. This project provided a much‐needed east‐west greenway corridor, border to border through Morrisville; it also connects Morrisville’s greenways to the Town of Cary’s greenway system.
The Greenway Railroad Underpass project epitomizes the unique, creative partnerships and civic projects that have made Morrisville a wonderful place to live, work and play. With a growing population that is nearing 30,000 the Town strategically leverages investments and works to stay on the cutting edge of community advancement.
Morrisville is a place where diverse people and businesses connect to a world of opportunity – and are better for it.
Cricket at Church Street Park: Community Engagement through Athletics
Church Street Park is home to the only regulation-size cricket ground in the Triangle area, hosting cricket leagues and tournaments, bringing large crowds of people to Morrisville on a consistent basis. With 40 percent of Morrisville’s residents being Asian Indian, cricket is a popular sport that reflects the Town’s cultural diversity and brings awareness to the community while celebrating what makes it unique.
Prior to 2018 the circular field at Church Street Park in Morrisville was the central gathering place for a thriving local cricket community, but few outside the Triangle area were aware of it.
That all changed in August 2018 when the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced that the Americas region qualifier for the 2020 ICC World Cup would be played in September at Church Street Park.
Morrisville had instantly become an international player in the cricket world.
The 2018 international event was a massive success for the Town. But the story of Church Street Park, and its rise to prominence in the cricket world, began long before that day. The story is one of collaboration, inclusion, diversity and community engagement.
Morrisville is known throughout North Carolina as being a welcoming, friendly, inclusive and diverse community. After launching a new brand in 2016, the new logo and tagline, “Live connected. Live well.,” epitomizes the feeling of one community made up of many religions, cultures and backgrounds. During the rebranding process, Morrisville’s Town Council felt strongly that any brand should reflect the openness and diversity the Town is known for. This belief was validated through the feedback of over 700 members of the community who live, work and play in Morrisville.
Morrisville has seen a rapid increase in population of over the past 10-12 years. This is partly due to desirable characteristics such as low crime, highly educated residents, and a great location in the center of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill (known as the Triangle). The Town is consistently recognized as one the top places in the U.S. to live, raise a family, conduct business – and for our diversity.
Along with growth in the overall population, Morrisville began to see growth in the Asian Indian community. Home to two temples, Hindu Society of North Carolina and BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Morrisville, RDU Airport and its proximity to Research Triangle Park, Morrisville quickly became a desirable community for Asian Indians. Morrisville’s population is now 40% Asian Indian.
Recognizing Morrisville as such a desirable place to live and one of the most diverse municipalities in the state, staff began looking for ways to be responsive to the interests of the increasing diversity of the community. Residents began expressing interest in finding locations to accommodate cricket play. While the second most popular sport in the world (behind soccer), the popularity of cricket falls below many other sports in the United States. Seeking an opportunity to offer organized cricket play, the Town entered into a partnership with the Triangle Cricket League (TCL).
Founded in 2009, the TCL currently has more than 2,100 players. While most of its members reside in the Triangle area, some travel from cities up to 100 miles away. The Town’s partnership with the TCL began with providing temporary cricket grounds on various multipurpose fields within Morrisville’s park system. Cedar Fork District Park, Shiloh Park and Crabtree Creek Nature Park have all been modified to accommodate the unique field needs for cricket play. While the fields are not regulation-sized cricket fields, the partnership has flourished and seen significant growth of participation in Morrisville.
Morrisville gained the attention of the United States of America Cricket Association, South East Region (USACA), who partnered with the TCL and Morrisville to host national, inter-league U-19 and U-15 youth tournaments in 2012. The event brought hundreds of visitors to the area with teams traveling from Atlanta, Orlando and South Florida. Morrisville Council Member Steve Rao, who worked with the TCL and the USACA to bring the tournament to Morrisville, expressed his pride in having Morrisville serve as home to such a global sport and proclaimed that “Morrisville is emerging as the cricket capital of the southeastern United States.”
With the clear growth in the interest in cricket, coupled with the desire to celebrate the diversity of the community, Morrisville staff and elected officials recognized the need for more intentional development of facilities designed to accommodate cricket. Church Street Park, originally intended to include a pinwheel softball complex as part of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, was considered as a potential site. Several open houses were held throughout the design process of the park, and the Town received an overwhelming response to build a cricket ground from fans of the sport in the community. This validated the desire to change the original plans and build a competition-size cricket ground.
The success of previous tournaments, coupled with the availability of a regulation-sized ground, gained the attention of the International Cricket Council (ICC). A delegation from the ICC visited Morrisville in 2015. They were identifying potential locations to host an international cricket tournament, giving the Town recognition as being a cricket community on a world stage. Officials from the ICC visited nine cities in the United States. With a population of 25,000 at that time, Morrisville was the smallest municipality visited. The closest city to Morrisville in size was Fort Lauderdale, with 165,000 residents. Other cities considered included the metro-areas of New York, L.A., Dallas and Chicago.
Church Street Park officially came on-line in 2015, and was used as a field for the TCL, but it wasn’t quite ready for the “big leagues” yet. Staff continued to make improvements. The Town installed irrigation in 2017. Morrisville also received the Wake County Major Facilities Grant in 2018, an award of $258,000. The Town added an additional $500,000 and was able to install LED sports lighting to accommodate expanded use of the multipurpose/cricket field. The award supports the competitive value of the facility in supporting diversity through the sport of cricket. Outdoor fitness stations were installed in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Town spent approximately $6.5 million on the park, including land and construction.
Volunteers Help Overcome Challenges
Church Street Park as a host for an international cricket event was in doubt after ICC officials first indicated Morrisville was qualifier worthy.
The ground’s Bermuda grass was in great condition, but to reach international standards, the central rectangle referred to as the “pitch” needed nurturing. The pitch is where the sport’s batsmen stand, taking whacks at balls hurled by the other team’s bowler.
Three truckloads of clay, specifically from the town of Waterloo, Ill., were supposed to arrive in March 2018, but a problem with the digging apparatus delayed that until June—when the clay arrived instead in bags.
Volunteers emptied 2,400 bags of clay.
In July, ICC officials visited to watch an exhibition match and see how the pitch was doing. It was not good enough, and so the ICC recommended the TCL bring in curators from New Zealand and Australia. The Morrisville Town Council approved that request in two days.
The Town also received eight pallets of sod in July. That’s a necessary item for the pitch, except the sod had sand in its roots. More volunteers – cricket enthusiasts within the Town – stepped up to help.
Finally, the ground was in good shape. Then, about a week before the start of the tournament the field got eight inches of rain from Hurricane Florence. That’s when the volunteers really went to work.
The quotes below are from an article posted on the visitraleigh.com website in 2018, written by Neil Amato.
“The women came, the men came, they sponge-rolled and squeegeed the entire ground,” according to TCL League Chairman Jana Chellaperumal. “They pushed the water out.”
“It’s that sort of community spirit that has stood out,” said Zubin Surkari, the ICC’s Americas representative. He said the collaboration between entities shows how seriously Morrisville takes its role as host.”
Morrisville has enjoyed a continually strengthening relationship with members of the Asian Indian community through the growth of cricket. By encouraging involvement in local leagues, seeking stakeholder participation in planning for the design of the park and by responding to the overwhelming desire to incorporate programming to represent a broader culture, Morrisville has successfully shown appreciation for cultural diversity as a way of life in the community. The Town has enjoyed equal participation by residents from all cultures in recreational programming, community events, citizen advisory committees as well as on Town Council. This relationship continues to grow and expand as Morrisville looks to recognize and exemplify diversity in the community.
Cricket at Church Street Park supports diversity in Morrisville by offering a facility that is unique to the area. As a result, cricket has become a big regional draw for Morrisville. The closest comparable facilities are in Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
There is also age diversity through Morrisville’s partnership with the TCL in offering youth cricket. This is unique, as most leagues in the country are adult focused. This showcases Morrisville’s commitment to youth development. Initially, the youth cricket league was offered through the Town, but as its popularity increased, a better solution was to transition the program to the TCL and provide space to play.
Embraced by Leadership and Residents
Morrisville’s elected officials are major stakeholders in the growth of cricket in Morrisville. Current and former council members were integral to the partnerships that have been formed, and were outspoken advocates of bringing tournaments and large events to Morrisville. Cricket is embraced by community stakeholders, as was shown by feedback received at the open houses during the design process of Church Street Park.
Additionally, the Town currently has a team in the American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) League, a minor league cricket organization, and there is a possibility that the Town could soon field a team in the ACE major league.
Most of the lessons learned are specific to field design and maintenance. An awareness of the needs for specialized maintenance of this type of field is important. Specialty grass, equipment and specific maintenance training add additional costs that wouldn’t occur with a generic multipurpose field. Additionally, beginning the project with the end product in mind is important. While irrigation is now installed, it would have been more efficient to have incorporated that feature from the beginning of the project. Morrisville staff found great benefit in gaining a more thorough understanding of the game, by seeking opportunities to watch actual matches, which helped provide a better understanding of the functional needs of the cricket ground in order to better meet the needs of the players.
A major lesson learned has to do with the spirit of the people who live in Morrisville. Lots of volunteers—Town residents—were pressed into service throughout the process of turning Church Street Park into a viable cricket facility. Residents pitched in and did more than their part on various occasions.
In conclusion, all entities involved in this journey kept an open mind and embraced different ways to accomplish project and community goals. And the Town, and the regional cricket community, is better off for it.
Wake Competition Center
The Wake Competition Center, located in Morrisville, officially became the practice facility for the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes beginning with the 2020-2021 season. Sports enthusiasts will also soon be able to enjoy skating, gymnastics, volleyball, soccer and athletic training at the Morrisville multisport complex.
The Town of Morrisville SpringFest event turns Town Hall Drive into a carnival for the whole family once a year in May. The event includes entertainment, midway games, rides, live music and some of the area’s favorite food trucks.
Once a year, on National S’mores Day, Morrisville changes its name and becomes S’Morrisville in honor of the delicious snacks made famous at campfires everywhere. The S’Morrisville celebration includes music, games, food trucks and of course – s’mores.
Check out this video from Mayor T.J. Cawley, as he officially changes the town’s name to S’Morrisville.
East Meets West Festival
Every fall the East Meets West Festival closes down the main street of Morrisville for an annual event celebrating the energy and diversity of the community with a day of food, culture, and music from around the world. The award-winning festival is coordinated by the Morrisville Innovation Foundation, a program of the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce, with significant support from the Town.
Morrisville has the largest concentration of Asian Indian residents in the region. The Morrisville Town Council includes two of the first Indian Americans elected to office in the state. The council is also firmly rooted in local culture, and sees the East Meets West festival as an opportunity for residents of foreign cultures to experience North Carolina traditions, such as pulled pork and bluegrass music, for the first time.
The unique characteristics of Morrisville sets the festival apart from others and drew the attention of the National League of Cities (NLC). In March 2017, NLC presented the East Meets West festival with the City Cultural Diversity Award for cities with less than 50,000 residents.
On-stage entertainment at East Meets West varies slightly each year. In the past the festival has included performances by Chinese students, Indian and Irish dancers, and Middle Eastern belly dancers, as well as a private school band, a youth theater group, and a hip-hop dance group. Past festivals have included blues, reggae and bluegrass groups.
Food vendors sell small plates of Italian, Mediterranean, Indian, Peruvian, Irish, Chinese, Mexican and American Southeast cuisine. Community leaders taste and judge foods from around the world, and the public votes and selects their favorites. There are also numerous activities for children, including cultural dancing, face painting, and arts and crafts.
Families and businesses appreciate the opportunity to celebrate Morrisville’s diversity at the East Meets West festival each year. The Morrisville Innovation Foundation is thrilled to continue partnering with the Town on this important initiative.