Plans for Pediatric Dialysis Center Advance with Assist from Whalers License Plate

Plans for Pediatric Dialysis Center Advance with Assist from Whalers License Plate

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is the only hospital in Connecticut dedicated exclusively to the care of children. A pediatric dialysis center - the state’s first - is now being planned, with support from a major gift - and an assist from purchases of Hartford Whalers license plates from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

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Hartford as Soccer Hotbed: Surprisingly, Yes

If you are wondering why there is optimism for the success of the Hartford Athletic, the city’s new professional soccer team planning to begin its inaugural season later this month, a peek back at ratings for televised international soccer in the U.S. provides some hints. In March 2016, the Washington Post reported on the U.S. cities with the highest viewership for the Manchester derby between City and United in the English Premier League the previous week.  Topping the ratings was Baltimore, followed by Kansas City, Hartford, Seattle, Columbus, the San Francisco Bay area, West Palm Beach, and Philadelphia.  Yes, Hartford ranked third that week.  The match was the highest-rated Manchester Derby telecast in U.S. history at that time, attracting 1.17 million TV viewers.

Two years later, when NBC Sports reported on the cities with the highest average season-long ratings on Premier League telecast for the 2017-18 season, Hartford was ranked in the top 10.  Connecticut’s Capitol region was outranked only by Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Providence, Austin, Norfolk and Dallas.

This past Sunday, the top rated U.S. television markets for Manchester United vs. Liverpool, broadcast on NBC Sports Network, once again included the Hartford/New Haven market, at number six.  Leading the way once again was Baltimore, followed by Norfolk, Washington D.C., Milwaukee and Jacksonville.  Boston was seventh, just behind Hartford/New Haven.

Coincidentally, the telecasts are coordinated not in the U.K., but in Stamford, Connecticut, at the massive NBC facility there, which also serves as the command center for NBC’s Olympic coverage.  Approximately 60 work on each match day at NBC Sports’ headquarters, located at 1 Blachley Road on the city’s East Side, the Stamford Advocate reported last summer, just prior to the current season. On and the NBC Sports app, a record 4 million unique viewers watched during the past season, the Advocate reported.

Hartford Athletic, a USL expansion franchise, will kick off its inaugural season with a game in Atlanta on March 9.  The team's home opener is set for May 4. The club announced this week that Trinity Health of New England will be Title Partner and Official Healthcare Provider of Hartford Athletic and featured on both Hartford Athletic’s home and away jerseys.  Dillon Stadium, currently undergoing renovation in Hartford, is slated to be the club’s home turf.


Ghosts of Whalers Past Return in Carolina with Win, Attendance Boost, and Criticism

With the ghosts of Hartford Whalers past brought back to life for a one-night stand in Raleigh, North Carolina this past weekend, a glimpse at attendance numbers may give some perspective on what was, what is, and what might have been. The Carolina Hurricanes home attendance in the 31-team National Hockey League ranks 29th in the league thus far in the 2018-19 season, after 20 home games, not including Whalers night.  The team has been drawing considerably better on the road (17,258) than at home (13,245). 

That home attendance figure should come as no surprise.  It is on pace for last season’s home attendance average over 41 games of 13,320.  Then as now, it was the third lowest home attendance average in the league.  Only Arizona and the New York Islanders drew fewer fans to home games.

It’s no wonder that the Hurricanes were seeking to recapture some of that Whalers magic – or should we say Bonanza.  And also cash in on merchandise sales, as well as seeking an attendance boost, even if only for a night.

In early 1996, a 45-day “Save the Whale” season-ticket drive in Hartford resulted in 8,300 season tickets sold, about 3,000 more than the previous year.  In the aftermath of the season ticket drive, and heading into the 1996-97 season, the Whalers management said they would remain in Hartford for two more years, in accordance with their lease. Yet they ended their 18-year history as the Whalers in Hartford, moving to Greensboro, North Carolina seeking redder pastures and becoming the Carolina Hurricanes for the start of the 1997-98 season.

In the Whalers’ final season in Hartford, 1996-97, attendance at the Hartford Civic Center had grown to 87 percent of capacity, with an average attendance of 13,680 per game.  Published reports suggest that the average attendance was, in reality, higher than 14,000 per game by 1996-97, but Whalers ownership did not count the skyboxes and coliseum club seating because the revenue streams went to the state, rather than the team.  Attendance increased for four consecutive years before management moved the team from Hartford. (To 10,407 in 1993-94, 11,835 in 1994-95, 11,983 in 1995-96 and 13,680 in 1996-97.)

During the team’s tenure in Hartford, average attendance exceeded 14,000 twice – in 1987-88 and 1986-87, when the team ranked 13th in the league in attendance in both seasons.  The Hurricanes had somewhat higher attendance numbers in the immediate aftermath of winning the Stanley Cup a decade ago, but they did not sustain those levels and were among the top half of NHL teams in attendance only once.

Keep in mind that as we approach 2019, after two decades in North Carolina, the Hurricanes are only a couple of seasons removed from the recent low water mark in NHL attendance.  In the 2016-17 season, the average home crowd was the lowest in the NHL – only 11,776.  It was the second consecutive season that the Hurricanes had the league’s worst home attendance numbers. (They were second worst the previous year.)

The Hurricanes/Whalers will next skate in Boston against the Bruins in early spring, taking to ice in the green uniforms originally worn as road uniforms by Hartford from 1985-89, then again in 1991-92.  The Whalers, by the way, are now undefeated this season, as the Hurricanes defeated the Bruins 5-3 on Sunday afternoon.  The win was not without criticism, with one published report describing the Hurricanes new first-year management as leading "the desecration of a grave and a shameless ploy to drum up some jersey and merchandise sales. A cash grab."

The crowd was, as CBS Sports phrased it: "much bigger than they’re used to":  17,491.


Record-Setting Travelers Championship Nets $2 Million for Charity

The 2018 Travelers Championship generated $2 million for more than 150 local charities throughout the region, the largest amount for charity generated in the history of Connecticut’s premier sporting event.  The record-setting total includes a $200,000 contribution from three-time Travelers Championship winner and 2018 champion Bubba Watson. Charity representatives joined officials from Travelers and the tournament in Hartford this week for the annual Travelers Championship Charity Celebration, where funds were distributed to each organization.

“This is always a special day because it signifies the hard work everyone puts into the tournament,” said Travelers Championship Tournament Director Nathan Grube. “Through the support we receive from volunteers, fans, players and businesses, we’re able to help charitable groups across the region make the community a better place.”

This year’s effort brings the total amount generated for charity by the tournament to more than $16.7 million since Travelers became title sponsor in 2007. The tournament donates 100 percent of its net proceeds to charity.

“Reaching the $2 million mark is an important milestone, and it will have such a meaningful impact on so many local organizations,” said Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Travelers. “Bubba’s generosity mirrors our charity-first approach, and follows a similar sentiment that runs through the PGA TOUR and many of its players.”

Watson, who became just the second player to win the Travelers Championship more than twice – he also won in 2010 and 2015 – is representing the United States this week at the Ryder Cup in France. He recorded a video message that was played during the Charity Celebration.

“Wish I could be there. I just want to say thank you to Travelers for their hard work and their dedication to the community and all the charity dollars they’ve raised over the years,” Watson said. “Especially this year; $2 million dollars, what an achievement.”

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was the primary beneficiary of this year’s tournament, with three campers also serving as honorary co-chairs. Watson directed his $200,000 donation to Camp, which is naming the trading post at the Travelers Mini Golf Course on its campus in Ashford, Connecticut, as “Bubba Watson’s Trading Post,” in recognition of the 12-time PGA TOUR winner. Back in December, the 2017 Travelers Championship was honored by the PGA TOUR winning the prestigious “Tournament of the Year” award, along with recognition as the “Most Fan-Friendly Event,” “Best Sales” and the inaugural “Players Choice.” Award.  With approximately 4,000 volunteers working over 80,000 hours, the 2017 event generated more than $1.7 million for 165 deserving charities – totals that were exceeded this summer at the 2018 tournament. 

An economic impact study last year found that The Travelers Championship has an annual economic impact on the state of Connecticut of $68.2 million.  The study, conducted by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. (CERC), found that the economic impact had more than doubled between 2011 and 2017, due to two primary factors; a much larger total number of spectators, especially the increased number of individuals from outside the state, and increased spending by the tournament in preparing for and administering the increased number of events that occur during the tournament week.

At least 750 charities have benefited over that time. Since the tournament’s debut in 1952, more than $40 million has been distributed to local charities.

Never an effort to reset on its laurels, preparation has already started for the 2019 Travelers Championship, which will be held June 17-23 at TPC River Highlands.


Hurricanes v. Whalers: Words and Numbers Tell Different Stories

In the midst of the war of words between unrelenting fans of the former Hartford Whalers (joined by Governor Malloy) and the Raleigh News & Observer, which has aimed a cease and desist order at Hartford, it may be worthwhile to delve into the data. It prove to be a distinction without a difference, however. Gov. Malloy’s February 8 letter to Thomas Dundon, a Dallas businessman and new owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, urged that the team return to the Nutmeg State for a regular season game at Rentschler Field or the XL Center so the team could be “embraced by a grateful fan base.”  Doing so, Malloy pointed out, “would make clear that Hartford is a far more viable long-term home for the team than Raleigh.”

When asked days ago by The Sporting News about the 'Canes future in Raleigh, Dundon said: “As long as I’m involved, this is where we’re going to be. One of the best things about this is the people. They’re just nice people here. They care. There’s no reason to be anywhere else.”

In an editorial, the Raleigh newspaper added that if a game were to be played in Hartford, it would be preseason, not regular season, and only because it would be “a chance to hoover some money out of the pockets of long-suffering Whalers fans desperate to see NHL hockey again…  But that’s not going to happen.”

Last season, the Hurricanes had the league’s lowest attendance, averaging 11,776 per home game.  It was their second consecutive season at the bottom of the league in attendance.  In the 2015-16 season, average attendance was 12,203. Midway through this season, after 27 home games, the Hurricanes are averaging 13,039, 29th out of 31 teams in the league.

In the Whalers’ final season in Hartford, 1996-97, attendance at the Hartford Civic Center had grown to 87 percent of capacity, with an average attendance of 13,680 per game.  Published reports suggest that the average attendance was, in reality, higher than 14,000 per game by 1996-97, but Whalers ownership did not count the skyboxes and coliseum club seating because the revenue streams went to the state, rather than the team.

Attendance increased for four consecutive years before management moved the team from Hartford. (To 10,407 in 1993-94, 11,835 in 1994-95, 11,983 in 1995-96 and 13,680 in 1996-97.)  During the team’s tenure in Hartford, average attendance exceeded 14,000 twice – in 1987-88 and 1986-87, when the team ranked 13th in the league in attendance in both seasons.

During the 15 years prior to the past two seasons at the bottom, Carolina has been among the league’s bottom-third in  average attendance eight times, and the bottom-half every season but one.

The Sporting News has reported that Dundon purchased a 61 percent stake in the franchise last month, with Peter Karmanos, who relocated the Whalers to North Carolina in 1997, retaining a 39 percent minority stake. Dundon reportedly has an option to purchase the remainder in three years. He is a New York native, and lived in New Jersey and Houston before Dallas.

The arena's lease in Raleigh expires in 2024.  The team's current playoff drought is the longest of any team in the NHL - nearly a decade.

In the interview, Dundon pointed out “We have a really passionate, loyal season ticket base. The number is just smaller than you’d like it to be, but you have one. Every year that’ll grow. So the only challenge is just the amount of people that you have to touch. It’s inevitable that we’re going to touch them all and we’re going to get them.”

Eversource Hartford Marathon Brought $14.5 Million in Economic Benefit to Region in 2017

Just four years ago, in 2014, there was a title sponsor changing-of-the-guard at Connecticut’s premier spectator sporting events, as Eversource took over sponsorship of the Hartford Marathon, Travelers stepped in to save the state’s PGA Tour event (now the Travelers Championship), and United Technologies took the lead sponsorship that same year of what had been the Pilot Pen tennis tournament, now renamed as the Connecticut Open. Aside from a source of pride in maintaining marquee sporting events, the economic impact of the events continue to underscore the significance of local corporations coming through to sustain the events.

The latest evidence comes with news that the Hartford Marathon Foundation’s 2017 Eversource Hartford Marathon, Half Marathon, Team 26.2 Relay and Charity 5K brought an estimated $14.5 million of economic value to the area over the course of race weekend.  That figure is up from an estimated $13.6 million in 2015.  Eversource is signed on as title sponsor through 2019.

Official indicated that the Hartford Marathon Foundation (HMF) spent approximately $1 million to produce the Saturday, October 14th race in 2017, primarily working with local vendors and service providers.

In addition to a local economic boost to the city of Hartford and surrounding communities, the marathon drew 71,780 spectators, participants and volunteers to the area. Officials point out that runners, friends and families stayed in Hartford lodging, shopped in the area and dined in local restaurants. Significantly, 87 percent of participants visited Hartford primarily for the event. Of those traveling from out of state, 44 percent were visiting the city for the first time, officials specified.

Thousands of runners are motivated to use the race to raise funds on behalf of various charities and causes. Through these efforts more than $288,000 was raised and reported by the event’s 20 official charities and other groups, although charity fundraising is not required to be reported, so the true numbers may be higher.

The annual Travelers Championship has an annual economic impact on the state of $68.2 million, according to a recent study by Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc. (CERC). An economic impact study conducted a decade ago, in 2008, found that the tennis tournament predecessor to the Connecticut Open contributed approximately $26 million to the regional economy, including $10 million in local economic impact.

The Hartford Marathon will mark its 25th running on October 13, 2018.  The 2018 Travelers Championship, will be held June 18-24 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.  The Connecticut Open, at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale, will be held August 17-25 in 2018.

“We’re proud to host people from across the country to achieve personal goals and celebrate their accomplishments,” said Beth Shluger, CEO of the Hartford Marathon Foundation and Race Director of the Eversource Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon. “We are able to highlight the best of what the capitol region has to offer in a positive and truly inspiring event that allows tens of thousands to run, walk, volunteer or spectate. We are excited to be celebrating our 25th running in October 2018 and hope to create an even bigger positive impact through this milestone event.”

The Hartford Marathon Foundation also produces more than 30 events through the year, many that contribute to other organizations’ community fundraising goals.  The 2017 Mystic Half Marathon and 10K in May 2017 generated $28,000 to benefit the charitable works of the Mystic Rotary Club.  Additional fundraising events HMF was contracted to produce races for in 2017 include the Mahoney Sabol 5K to benefit Hospital for Special Care, CT Race in the Park to benefit CT Breast Health Initiative, Zero Prostate 5K to benefit ZERO - The End of Prostate Cancer, Achilles CT Hope & Possibility 5K & 10K to benefit Achilles International – CT Chapter, Pumpkin Run/Walk to benefit Youth & Family Services of Haddam-Killingworth, Inc. and the Norwich Winterfest 5K to benefit Reliance Health, Inc.

Economic Impact of Travelers Championship Doubles in Past Six Years, Analysis Finds; 2017 Tournament is PGA Tour’s Best

The Travelers Championship has an annual economic impact on the state of $68.2 million, according to a recent study by Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Inc.(CERC)  – and the recognition of its success is not only local, but national.  The tournament has been selected by the PGA tour as recipient of the prestigious “Tournament of the Year” award for 2017. The Travelers Championship also won awards for “Most Fan-Friendly Event,” “Best Sales” and the inaugural “Players Choice.” CERC first conducted an impact analysis of the tournament in 2011, and completed another impact analysis for the Travelers Championship in 2017.  The results were compared, to look at the changes over time and factors that may have influenced changes in the tournament’s economic effects.

The results: The economic impact had more than doubled between 2011 and 2017, due to two primary factors; a much larger total number of spectators, especially the increased number of individuals from outside the state, and increased spending by the tournament in preparing for and administering the increased number of events that occur during the tournament week.

“The Tournament activities and events, along with all of its associated events throughout the year has grown substantially over the past few years, which has resulted in a large increase in the number of spectators from Connecticut and beyond its borders,” said Alissa DeJonge, Vice President of Research, CERC. “Attendance increased dramatically, which increased spending at the event and among the local businesses.”

With record attendance, sales and fan engagement, the 2017 Travelers Championship raised the bar across the board through a strategic approach that focused on providing a first-class experience for fans, players, sponsors, volunteers and charity, officials pointed out. This marks the first time that the Travelers Championship has been recognized as “Tournament of the Year.”

The Travelers Championship, which donates 100 percent of its net proceeds to charity, announced last month that the 2017 tournament generated $1.72 million for more than 165 local charities, including The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, the primary beneficiary of this summer’s tournament. With approximately 4,000 volunteers worked over 80,000 hours.

It is the largest core amount raised in the history of the tournament, officials pointed out. The record-setting 2017 total brings the total money generated to $14.7 million since Travelers became title sponsor in 2007. More than 750 charities have received funds from the tournament over that time.

“We’re proud of the partnerships we’ve built with local organizations that need help,” said Travelers Championship Tournament Director Nathan Grube. “Handing out these checks to so many worthy charities is the highlight of our year. We won’t forget the week we had at TPC River Highlands, with Jordan Spieth winning in such dramatic fashion and the celebration that ensued. But knowing that more than $1.7 million is being given to such a wide spectrum of nonprofits this year reminds us why we do this. It inspires us.”

As the “Most Fan-Friendly Event,” the tournament provided options for fans of all ages, including affordable access, more than 18 food and beverage locations, fan and kid zones and public on-site concerts. The tournament increased fan engagement by 441 percent through creative video and dynamic content, and following Spieth’s thrilling hole-out to win, the tournament handle trended on Twitter for nearly four hours and the video reached YouTube’s front page within 24 hours.

The tournament continued to enhance the player and caddie experience, providing a complimentary charter flight from the preceding event, healthy food options and a variety of special features including caddie appreciation day, a performance by Kevin Nealon and multiple off-site events. To determine the new “Players Choice” category, TOUR players were asked to vote for one event based on tournament services, hospitality, player and family amenities, community support and attendance.

“We work hard on making sure everyone who attends or participates in our event has a world-class experience, so no detail toward that goal is too small,” said Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Travelers. “We are proud to associate our brand with the PGA Tour and this event, and are honored by this tremendous recognition. The best part is that any success we have means more money and attention raised for so many local charities that partner with the tournament.”

The 2018 Travelers Championship, will be held June 18-24 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.

Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Travelers; Sarah Ficenec and Bob Santy, CERC; Nathan Grube, Tournament Director at Travelers Championship; and Alissa DeJonge, CERC

State’s Larger Public Universities Have Few Men's Hoop Student-Athletes from Connecticut

When the Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils took the court to open the 2017-18 men’s basketball season this past Friday night, playing the University of Hartford Hawks, not a single player on either team’s roster was a Connecticut native. The 14-man roster for CCSU’s Division l men’s basketball team includes student-athletes from Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Arizona, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, California, and Puerto Rico, as well as three from Pennsylvania and one from the island of St. Maarten.  The team, which plays in the Northeast Conference, is coached by former UConn and NBA star Donyell Marshall.

CCSU is one of four regional state universities, part of the Connecticut State College and University (CSCU) system.  The largest of four comprehensive universities within the system, CCSU serves nearly 11,800 students--9,800 undergraduates, and 2,000 graduate students.  Southern Connecticut has 7,526 undergraduates and 2,193 graduate students.  Eastern and Western each have an undergraduate student population of just over 5,000.

The University of Connecticut, which also plays Division 1 and has won multiple NCAA national championships, is governed separately.  The Huskies 16-man roster for the current academic year includes two student athletes from Connecticut.  UConn has more than 23,000 undergraduate students, including just over 19,000 at the main campus in Storrs.

On the Southern Connecticut State University Owls, a Division ll men’s basketball team, five Connecticut student- athletes have made their way onto the 13 player roster.  Those students hail from New Haven, North Haven, West Haven, Middlebury, and Stratford.  The team plays in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, led by head basketball coach - former UConn and NBA player - Scott Burrell, a Hamden native.

That’s a total of about one-sixth of the roster slots - seven Connecticut student-athletes on the men’s basketball teams out of 43 places on the three rosters.

The state’s two Division III universities reflect a very different story.

Fourteen of the 16 student athletes on the roster of the Western Connecticut State University Colonials are from Connecticut.  The only two attending the Danbury-based school who aren’t from Connecticut hail from Georgia and New York.

At Eastern Connecticut State University, which plays in the Little East Conference, the Warriors men’s basketball roster includes 13 students from Connecticut, two from neighboring Massachusetts, and one from New York City.

Feds Urged to Complete Study Assessing Safety of Crumb Rubber Playing Fields, Playgrounds

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  That’s not only a well-worn adage from youth, it is apparently the game plan for Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and his multi-year quest for a comprehensive federal study of the health risks of crumb rubber turf, a surface made of recycled tires that is widely used on playgrounds and athletics fields in Connecticut and nationwide. Blumenthal, along with colleagues in the Senate, are this week urging a federal task force to finish a long-overdue study into potential health risks.  The crumb rubber used in artificial turf fields is mainly composed of recycled tires, which contain man-made and natural rubber, according to the state Department of Public Health.  Chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be found in the crumb rubber.  Crumb rubber can also contain heavy metals such as zinc and copper.

After a year and a half, WTNH-TV reported, the Senators are convinced progress on a comprehensive federal study has stalled.

It isn’t the first time that Blumenthal has been a lead voice to prompt action.  In November 2015 Blumenthal and Senate colleague Bill Nelson of Florida urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission to conduct a study.  In March 2016, Blumenthal was among those urging Congress and the President to allocate sufficient funds to conduct the study.  “Parents deserve to know if there is a danger to their children playing on these fields,” he said that month at a news conference held at Yale University.

A synthetic turf study was undertaken in 2016 by four United States agencies  — EPA, Consumer Products Safety Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry — which has yet to be finalized.

With it’s completion in doubt, Blumenthal is highlighting the imperative to get scientific answers to guide communities that are considering how best to replace natural grass or other types of field surfaces.  It is estimated that there are more than 10,000 artificial-turf surfaces in use across the country.

Earlier this year, plans for a crumb rubber synthetic turf field in North Haven brought local opposition. The town decided to go forward with the less controversial encapsulated crumb-rubber infill over the traditional crumb rubber option, according to an article on the controversy published this month in The Atlantic.

Last year, Hamden opted not to go ahead with plans for crumb rubber, switching to a mix of cork shavings and coconut husk, called “GeoFill,” along with a “shock pad” in response to safety concerns. Bloomfield High School installed a synthetic turf field, South Windsor decided to use acrylic-coated sand instead of crumb rubber.  Madison and Guilford are also among the communities with crumb rubber surfaces for fields or playgrounds, according to published reports.

Testifying at the Connecticut State Capitol earlier this year, medical staff from the Children’s Environmental Health Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, urged that “Until the findings of these studies are available and conclusively demonstrate the safety of recycled rubber playground surfaces, we recommend a ban on the use of these materials where children play.”

Legislation that would have prohibited the installation of ground cover that contains shredded or ground rubber recycled from motor vehicle tires in municipal and public school playgrounds in Connecticut was approved by two legislative committees (Committee on Children, Committee on Planning & Development) in March, but the proposal was not considered by the full legislature in the session that concluded in June.

Blumenthal first became concerned about the artificial surface when his children were playing on the crumb-rubber athletic fields.  “I became concerned as a parent, as much as a public official, ten years ago, and at first was somewhat skeptical, but now very firmly believe that we need an authoritative, real study about what’s in these fields,” Blumenthal told ABC News two years ago.

The state Department of Public Health (DPH) website points out that “the advantages of these fields include less maintenance costs, ability to withstand intense use and no need for pesticides.”  To address public safety concerns, four Connecticut state agencies collaborated in 2010 to evaluate the potential exposures and risks from athletic use of artificial turf fields, the DPH website explains.

A two year investigation of releases from five fields during active play was conducted by the Connecticut departments of Public Health, Energy and Environmental Protection, University of Connecticut Health Center, and The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. The study was peer-reviewed by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.

The overall conclusion of the report, according to the DPH website, is that “use of outdoor artificial turf fields does not represent a significant health risk.”  A news release issued by the department did note “higher contaminant levels at one indoor field indicate that ventilation of indoor fields should be considered.  Storm water run off findings indicate that proper management of this run off is prudent to address possible environmental effects.”





Focus on UConn Funding Includes View of Money Paid to Football Coaches

The UConn football season is underway, and UConn is in the news in a big way.  It is, however,  about not only prospects on the gridiron as prospects on the bottom line for the state’s flagship university.  Officials describe the university as being under unfair and counterproductive attack by a budget recently adopted by the state legislature that would require substantial reductions in state funding.  The budget is expected to be vetoed by the Governor, continuing the legislative stalemate that has prevented agreement on a state budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1. Also within the past week, UConn was among a handful universities portrayed as the poster children for the practice of paying multiple head football coaches simultaneously.  UConn’s situation was listed as among the most costly.

The report, by The New York Times, indicated that “when the Huskies hired Randy Edsall last winter after three losing seasons under Bob Diaco, they got their once and future head coast for a reasonable $1 million salary.”  The article went on to point out, however, that “firing Diaco triggered a $3.4 million buyout.”  Thus, the University is paying $4.4 million in head coach salary this season, to two coaches – one employed by the university, the other not.

It could have been more costly.

“Even though the move was announced in December,” it was effective in January; “an effective end date in 2016 would have cost the Huskies $5 million.  The newspaper notes that “if it had not given Diaco a richer buyout as part of a two-year (contract) extension he negotiated only seven months before he was fired,” the buyout would have been significantly smaller – only $800,000.”

Leading the list of colleges cited in the Times article was Texas, “on the hook for the salaries of current and former coaches” this season to the tune of $12.45 million.  Next was Oregon, at $8.5 million; and Florida at $6.4 million.

Some doubted that Diaco would be fired, because of the continuing cost to the university of doing so.  The website said when the firing was announced in late December that “The primary driver behind Diaco’s assumed job security was a substantial buyout owed to him had he been fired right after the season. With UConn’s strapped financial situation, it could ill-afford to be paying Diaco millions to not coach the team.”

Diaco, in January, became the highest paid assistant coach in Nebraska history when he was hired by that university to be the team’s defensive coordinator for $825,000 this year and $875,000 next year.

At the time of Diaco’s firing, UConn emphasized that taxpayers would not be responsible for the buyout.

"It's not taxpayer money," Michael Enright, who oversees communications for UConn athletics told the Hartford Courant at the time. "It's from division of athletics revenues. So ticketing, concessions, licensing, conference revenue."

The Courant went on to report that “sports-related income isn't the only source of revenue feeding the department's $72 million budget. For the 2014-15 school year, student fees provided more than $10 million and the university contributed $18 million, according to a survey by USA Today. The school has taken pains to say the university's share comes from segregated accounts that do not include tuition or state funds. But critics see the university's and athletics department's budgets as homogenous taxpayer-supported piles of money.”

The state provides approximately 28 percent of the revenue funding UConn's overall $1.3 billion budget, the Courant noted, adding that Diaco's salary was $1.7 million last year, making him the third-highest-paid state employee, trailing only the UConn head basketball coaches.

In mid-2016, Diaco and his wife have announced "they will contribute $250,000 to the University to help fund the construction of several new UConn athletic facilities,” according to the UConn website. The Diaco gift, it was announced, would be used to help build new facilities for the UConn men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, and softball teams.