New Canaan Athletics Foundation seeks expanded role in town
NEW CANAAN — To map out a long-term strategy for New Canaan’s athletic facilities, a local fundraising organization is looking to expand its role in town.
Leo Karl, who had been tasked to study town fields by the first selectman, presented a proposal at the Nov. 20 Board of Selectmen meeting for the town to partner with the New Canaan Athletics Foundation on future athletic facilities maintenance.
“Over the years, New Canaan has been incredibly fortunate to have a lot of philanthropic-aligned citizens that have stepped up and essentially coalesced around ideas, raised funds and help the town have some of our public facilities available to us,” Karl said.
The athletic foundation now looks to enter a public-private partnership with the town to collect private dollars and develop a long-term strategy for the fields. The partnership would solidify a way for both private and public dollars to maintain the facilities, Karl said.
“Arguably, the crown jewel of our athletic complex would be Dunning Stadium,” he said.
The athletic foundation would establish an endowment for future turf replacement at Dunning Field under a new agreement with the town, and hold additional accounts for operating expenses and, separately, fundraising in support of new athletic-complex-related capital improvements.
“Dunning is really a part of our larger athletic complex in town,” Karl said. “Now with the other turf fields next door, it’s a campus that should be looked at and maintained in the same fashion.”
This partnership could help avoid the problem of finding last-minute private money for turf replacement, he said. The organization is also on track to earn 501(c)(3) nonprofit status by the end of the year.
“We also identified the need to have an annual town planning session,” Karl said. The idea is to give athletic organizations and town officials the opportunity to discuss emerging athletic facility issues; the town and foundation would then have time to budget and prepare, he said.
“You need to make sure both sides are on the same page and working together moving forward,” Karl said. “By creating a public-private partnership between the town and the athletic foundation around athletic facilities you can create a blueprint that all future projects would run through.”
Selectman Nick Williams said moving toward this model will be better in the long term.
“It’s a great idea. We’ve been talking about this for years,” Williams said.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said the town and athletic foundation are working on drafting a public-private agreement and could potentially vote on it in a December meeting.