This week on 0684-Radi0, our free podcast (subscribe here in the iTunes Store), we talk to Mike Benevento, chairman of the New Canaan Athletic Foundation. Those interested in learning more about how to support the NCAF can find its Guide To Giving here. Here are recent episodes of 0684-Radi0:
Faced with a need for more playing time, officials this week approved a contract to kickstart a look into installing turf fields at Saxe Middle School. The Board of Selectmen at its regular meeting Wednesday—its last as currently composed—voted 3-0 in favor of a contract with New Canaan-based RKW Land Surveying to survey the grass fields at Saxe. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kathleen Corbet and Nick Williams voted in favor of the $13,900 contract. The cost will be borne by the New Canaan Athletic Foundation. A recommendation to study the Saxe fields “for the potential to install turf fields” emerged because “some of the fields at Saxe are a little bit too wet for a gym class to go out, given the fact that the grass we’re not able to play on as much as we would like,” according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann.
Construction is expected to start toward the end of June for new features at Dunning Stadium, including an entranceway, ticket booth and “Donor Wall,” officials say. It’s unclear just when power will be run to another widely anticipated feature—a new press box, according to New Canaan Athletic Foundation Chairman Mike Benevento. However, the stadium’s PA system will be functioning through this coming fall football season as well as New Canaan High School graduation 2024, he said. Asked by the Board of Selectmen during its most recent meeting whether fundraising still needs to be done to build the new press box itself, Benevento said yes. “The project can‘t go forward unless we have $2 million sitting in the bank when we sign a contract,” he said at the selectmen’s May 2 meeting, held at Town Hall and via videoconference.
The New Canaan Athletic Foundation or “NCAF” anticipates raising a good portion of the funding by selling naming rights for the press box, Benevento said.
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.
More than 400 youth and high school football players and parents gathered Monday morning at New Canaan High School to urge state officials to allow tackle football this fall. The show of support came after the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference cited a state Department of Public Health statement from last Thursday saying the agency “is unlikely to support higher risk activities for the fall term” absent “modifications to higher risk activities.”
“As such, the CIAC Board of Control, in alignment with DPH recommendations, has determined that high risk full contact football is no longer a viable option,” the CIAC said in a press release. Instead, it’s looking at the “appropriateness” of a 7-on-7 football model, as opposed to the normal 11-on-11 game. Those gathered at Dunning Stadium on a sunny Labor Day morning pushed for the traditional game, with safety precautions.
“The game of football is not just about winning games and putting points on the board,” Mike Benevento, president of the New Canaan Athletic Foundation, told NewCanaanite.com as dozens of football families filed into Dunning for the socially distanced show of support. “The game of football is about camaraderie.