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.
“Potentially with baseball we can do something earlier because they wouldn’t use the fields in the late summer and then through the fall,” Benevento said. “So as it stands right now, our enhancements account sits at a little over a half million dollars of monies that have been raised to date, and we have commitments that are well north of that as well.”
Board members asked Benevento about how much additional money is forthcoming in late 2021 youth player fee transfers (about $9,000), whether the Athletic Foundation has a net figure for the enterprise zone (not yet because operating expenses aren’t finalized but it likely will come to about $60,000 for 2021), whether the town departments that assist with the fields are helpful (yes), how the number and size of turf athletic fields that New Canaan offers compare to other area towns (probably less than Darien and Greenwich but more than Wilton) and what the fields are made of (“virgin rubber”).
To a question regarding whether the region overall will see far more synthetic fields created, and how that could affect demand for New Canaan’s, Benevento said, “Even with the number of symmetric fields we have there is a scarcity and the amount of volume that wants to get on the turf, between all the youth programs and all the high school programs, you would think we basically did more than double the turf size when we built these back in 2016 and yet they are busting at the seams in terms of usage. And all I get is more and more requests to have additional turf space because there is such a need for it.”