The newly formed Darien Athletic Foundation is looking to improve the powerhouse that is Darien youth sports with the start of the "Sunny Day" plan, a $7.5 million project that is in the beginning phases.

Two phases of the project were presented as gifts to the Board of Education at its Tuesday, April 23, meeting: A new $200,000 scoreboard and a $500,000 building equipped with a ticket booth, concession stand and bathrooms.

Two additional phases include laying down turf at Darien High School and at Middlesex Middle School.

Darien is a "sports enthusiastic town," said Mark Maybell, DAF treasurer.

Youth field hockey has increased 400 percent in the last seven years and is the largest in Connecticut and New York, according to Kelly Vegliante, the Darien Youth Field Hockey president.

Youth soccer is the second largest in the state behind Greenwich, according to John Gallagher, the Darien Soccer Association president.

Youth lacrosse is the second largest in the country, just falling behind Greenwich, and is 50 percent larger than New Canaan's program, according to Andrew Barnard, Darien Youth Lacosse Association president.

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Youth baseball is the largest in the entire country, according to Little League International.

The DAF, which was incorporated in January 2013, seeks to improve facilities and support all youth and high school athletics in Darien, according to Maybell.

"We need to be competitive," Maybell said. "We want take an athletic infrastructure and put it on par with New Canaan and Greenwich."

The Sunny Day plan was developed with input from schools Superintendent Stephen Falcone; Michael Lynch, Board of Education facilities manager; Michael Sullivan, DHS athletic director; DHS field sports, such as football, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, varsity coaches; Jeremy Ginsberg, planning and zoning director; and heads of youth leagues.

All of the phases of the overall project will be presented to the town as gifts. The organization wants to endow funds to be used for future maintenance so that the town incurs no costs.

However, the town would be expected to pay basic janitorial costs that it already incurs, according to Debbie Parnon, DAF vice president, who was also a part of the downtown revitalization and the Weed Beach pavilion projects.

"The turf will eliminate the labor-intensive aspects of grass fields," said Peter Graham, DAF president. Graham is the quarterback coach for the high school football team and was active in the Junior Football League.

The life expectancy of turf fields is 10 years, Maybell said. He added that laying down turf is an estimated $1 million per field.

DAF's plans include turfing the junior varsity baseball field and three others for multi-purpose use at the high school.

Several youth groups already have committed more than $200,000 for the scoreboard, but the DAF will not officially start to raise funds until it has approval from the Board of Education, Maybell said.

The DAF's applications for the scoreboard and concession stand will go before Planning and Zoning Commission in May. The DAF hopes to have the scoreboard installed in time for the start of the fall sports seasons.

This is the second-largest fundraising campaign in Darien; the first being the one for the new library, which cost $28 million.; 203-972-4407; @Meg_DarienNews