OP-ED | Maybe The Whalers Are Next?
Between the Hartford Marathon and the University of Connecticut’s homecoming football game, it was a sporting weekend in Hartford and even state government got in the mood.
More than 11,000 runners finished the 20th running of the Hartford Marathon on Saturday. The event has come a long way since it’s inaugural race when 400 runners participated. Although this weekend’s race was the last with ING as the title sponsor, the future seems bright. Runner’s World reported that there are several corporations vying for the naming rights.
State officials were so enthusiastic about the event’s future they even suggested a new route for a portion of the race: the 9.4-mile Hartford-to-New Britain busway after the project is completed next fall. DOT chief James Redecker tossed out the idea noting, “I think it’s an opportunity and I don’t know that it can be done, but [CTFastrak] certainly can be used for other types of walks, races, bike things, whatever. We would like to make that available.” It’s always good to have a backup plan.
The weekend also will mark both Homecoming and the beginning of the post-Pasqualoni era for the UConn football team under the guidance of interim head coach T.J. Weist. After a thoroughly disappointing 0-4 start that included losses to the likes of Towson and the University of Buffalo, the football team faced South Florida in hopes of re-launching their season. Following months of criticism about Paul Pasqualoni and his big salary and poor results, the Huskies could use a fresh start, and maybe they’ll get one next week. But, unfortunately, they lost 13-10 on Saturday.
However, the sporting mood didn’t end there. The state will soon get in the business of providing a new vital public service to Connecticut’s residents: a tennis tournament. The New Haven Open will soon belong to the state for the tidy sum of $618,000. In quotes that sound like they belong in the script of a lousy sitcom, Office of Policy and Management chief Ben Barnes assured taxpayers that the $618,000 spent on the tournament is a “bargain in the world of owning tennis tournaments.” The funds will come through the Manufacturing Assistance Act and will total $1.4 million over two years with other related costs included. How a tennis tournament counts as manufacturing assistance seems unclear.
But it was hard to miss that yet another National Hockey League season has started without the return of the Hartford Whalers. With labor disputes now seemingly behind them and entering the third year of a surprisingly successful television contract with NBC Sports Network, the NHL is putting a compelling product on ice rinks across the country — just not in Hartford.
If providing quality sports entertainment is now a core function of state government, maybe they should have started by bringing back the Whalers instead of a tennis tournament.
Heath W. Fahle is the Policy Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and a former Executive Director of the Connecticut Republican Party. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com