Local schools will continue to travel if we don't promote our facilities to CIAC

Time 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.


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


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