Athletic Foundation: Demand Rising for Use of New Canaan’s Turf Fields

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a nonprofit organization that supports youth and high school athletics has seen a steady increase in use of New Canaan’s turf fields in the past three years, officials say. Gross revenues generated by events held on turf fields at New Canaan High School grew from $30,975 in 2019 to $67,095 in 2020 and then $81,675 in 2021, according to Mike Benevento, chair of the New Canaan Athletic Foundation’s Board of Directors. Crediting the organization’s executive director, Bobby Rushton, for the increased use of the fields as an “enterprise zone,” Benevento told members of the Board of Finance this week that “the fields are getting used as much as they possibly can.”

“And the other added benefit to this is we get a lot of positive feedback from people from surrounding towns who come in for these tournaments and practices and what not, that our field complexes are just the top of the game for the entire area,” Benevento told the finance board during its regular meeting, held Tuesday night via videoconference. 

The comments came during a general update to the Board from Benevento and Vice Chair Mike Murray. Benevento said that the Athletic Foundation between the 2021 spring and fall seasons also collected a total of $93,825 in “player use fees” from New Canaan’s youth and recreational sports organizations, and that additional funds were expected to come from men’s softball and flag football programs.

He added that the Athletic Foundation did well with respect to fundraising even though a major event that had been planned for the fall, the Field Fest, had to be canceled amid the pandemic. Two major capital upgrades that had originally been slated for the summer of 2022 have been pushed back one year, Benevento said—enhancements to the press box and entrance at Dunning Stadium, and a new varsity baseball complex at Mead Park.

Turkey Bowl Tickets Sold Out; NCHS Issues Parking, Attendance Instructions

Tickets for Thursday’s “Turkey Bowl”—the annual rival football game between New Canaan and Darien High Schools—are sold out, officials say. Those attending the game at Dunning Field should expect traffic delays, according to a press release issued by NCHS Athletic Director Jay Egan. “The recommended entrance and parking area for New Canaan fans is through the main entrance of the high school,” the press release said. “Overflow parking is available at South Elementary School.”

It added: “Spectators are reminded that the consumption or possession of alcoholic beverages on any New Canaan school property is prohibited. This will be strictly enforced.

Superintendent: Winter Sports Guidance Says Vaccinated Student-Athletes Aren’t Required To Wear Masks In-Game After Dec. 23

Fully vaccinated students playing some winter sports that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have had to wear masks in-game—including basketball, hockey, indoor track and cheerleading—will not need to wear masks while competing after Dec. 23, according to new guidance cited Monday night by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi. Saying he’d just received the guidance from the CIAC and state Department of Public Health en route to the Board of Education’s meeting, Luizzi said the state agencies are “making some changes.”

“It says ‘partially or unvaccinated participants have to wear their masks the whole time,’ ” Luizzi said during the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School and via videoconference. “They go on to say wrestling does not need to wear masks, swimming and diving does not need to wear masks, again if fully vaccinated, and the same goes with cheerleading, dance and gymnastics. Wrestling was never required because of a fear about the mask itself and choking and what have you.

11 NCHS Seniors Sign Letters of Intent To Play Sports in College

Eleven New Canaan High School seniors on Wednesday signed early Letters of Intent to play sports in college starting next year. The photos below are from a signing ceremony overseen by NCHS Athletic Director Jay Egan, held early afternoon at Waveny House. 

Egan thanked the All Sports Booster Club for its organization of the annual ceremony, saying it’s “the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of effort on the part of these athletes.”

“And not only these athletes but their families, their coaches and all their support people,” Egan said. “So it’s really a day for us all to celebrate what these young people have achieved. And it’s also the beginning of something else for you guys.”

We asked the student-athletes why they chose their future schools. 

Grace Gilman

Field Hockey
“As soon as I started talking to the coaches, it automatically felt like where I needed to be. I think the team culture is incredible and the regrowth that my coach, Caitlin Dallmeyer, is trying to make is, I think, an incredible decision.

New Canaan Old Timers Association To Induct Six Athletes, Honor Wilky Gilmore

After missing a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the spotlight will once again shine on local sports figures from the past as the New Canaan Old Timers Association hosts its annual honoree ceremony on Sunday, September 19th at Waveny. 2021 inductees will be Bobby Festo, Paul Gallo, Tom McInerney, Lew Socci and Katey Twombly. Also being recognized at this year’s affair as the Loren J. Keyes Memorial Honoree is all-time New Canaan basketball great, the late Wilky Gilmore. 

Bobby Festo is listed in the Who’s Who of American High School Athletes as an All-American in track and field, an honorable mention on the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletics Conference county soccer team as a goalkeeper his senior year in New Canaan. He holds many track and field records as a sprinter for New Canaan, and won many medals at state and invitational track and field competitions as a sprinter in both individual events and as a member of a relay team. He went to college at Southern Connecticut State College where he joined the men’s track team for a year and a half while also participating on the men’s soccer team.