Lo­cals will con­tinue to travel if they don’t pro­mote fa­cil­i­ties to CIAC

The Day - - SPORTS -

T ime for a buzz­word within the precincts of ed­u­ca­tion: col­lab­o­ra­tion. Yes. Col­lab­o­ra­tion. This is what we need.

It is time for col­lab­o­ra­tion among the high schools here in our cor­ner of the world and the Con­necti­cut In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic Con­fer­ence, the state's gov­ern­ing body of high school sports.

Be­cause here it is again, state tour­na­ment time, and ev­ery­one and ev­ery­thing east of the Con­necti­cut River are be­ing treated as west­ern Rhode Is­land. Ex­am­ple: East Lyme and RHAM of He­bron, two schools east of the river, play a state semi­fi­nal game in girls' soc­cer Wed­nes­day night in ... wait for it ... Meri­den.

It's ap­prox­i­mately 50 miles from East Lyme and 40 from He­bron.

And I'm think­ing, what, we don't have enough nice turf fields and new ath­letic fa­cil­i­ties around here that wouldn't make for a closer neu­tral site?

Here are the neu­tral sites for the girls' soc­cer semi­fi­nals: Fair­field Lud­lowe High, Mu­nic­i­pal Sta­dium in Water­bury, Fal­con Field in Meri­den, West Haven High, Middletown High, Nau­gatuck High and Windsor High.

All west of the river. Hmmm. Shall we dis­cuss? And that's what we'll do. Dis­cuss. There is no need for blame as­sess­ment here. Un­less it's per­mis­si­ble to blame ev­ery­body.

I don't be­lieve schools around here do enough to pro­mote their fa­cil­i­ties to CIAC as po­ten­tial sites for neu­tral site games. Not to sin­gle any­one

out here or any­thing, but Montville, for ex­am­ple, (turf field, plenty of seat­ing) wouldn't have been a bet­ter place for East Lyme-RHAM than Meri­den?

I also don't be­lieve the CIAC tries hard enough to in­cen­tivize neu­tral site games for its mem­ber schools. Es­sen­tially, an ath­letic di­rec­tor must cor­ral ticket peo­ple, se­cu­rity per­son­nel and tend to other game day de­tails with­out much en­tice­ment. The CIAC pays the bills, but noth­ing more. Maybe the mem­ber school could keep 20 per­cent of the ticket rev­enue?

If 500 fans show up at $8 a whack, that's $4,000. Twenty per­cent of that is $800, which, com­bined with con­ces­sion stand money, would trans­late into a worth­while night — or at least gen­er­ate enough rev­enue to af­ford at least two of those venti latte mac­chi­ato things at Star­bucks. Again: col­lab­o­ra­tion. Even­tu­ally, every school in the re­gion will play a big state tour­na­ment game at some neu­tral site in some sport. Might be nice, in that es­prit de corps sort of way, if schools around here started vol­un­teer­ing their ser­vices. Be­cause this much we know: Our kids and schools get The Short End, quite faith­fully, in "neu­tral site" games.

We are al­ways trav­el­ing the greater dis­tance. Al­ways. That's be­cause we're an af­ter­thought here in them, thar hills.

I have a per­sonal fa­vorite from days of yore:

Waterford vs. New Lon­don base­ball in the 2009 Class M semi­fi­nals in ... Bris­tol. (Galve­ston wasn't avail­able that night). Only 60 miles away for both schools.

Seems rhetor­i­cal to ask, but there wasn't any­where closer they could have played that game?

So how to cease be­ing af­ter­thoughts? Make our­selves heard. It's got to be more than one provoca­tive, an­a­lyt­i­cal, snotty, ink stained wretch whose sunny dis­po­si­tion is lost over this. We have nicer fa­cil­i­ties than ever around here. Turf, lights, seat­ing. And yet our kids are al­ways the ones to say, "thank you sir, may we have an­other (long bus ride)?"

Hence, we've got to start do­ing for our­selves. It starts in the up­com­ing win­ter sea­son. Call CIAC and let the folks there know your gym or pool is avail­able.

And if two teams east of the river need a neu­tral site, you'd pre­fer they come to your place rather than Tuscaloosa.

And while you're on the line, be proac­tive (ed­u­ca­tion word) and ask for a meet­ing to ex­plore more ways CIAC could make neu­tral site games more at­trac­tive for host schools.

I mean, Meri­den is lovely this time of year. But why on earth are we trav­el­ing there with so many other op­por­tu­ni­ties in our back­yard? This is the opin­ion of Day sports colum­nist Mike DiMauro

MIKE DIMAURO m.dimauro@the­day.com

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