DERBY-For Red Raider sports this is a game changer.
And the chief executive officer of a $110 billion asset management firm whose father grew up here delivered it.
Supt. of Schools Matthew Conway announced Thursday during a meeting of the school baseball field relocation committee that Joan A. Payden, chief executive officer of Payden & Rygel which has offices in Boston, Los Angeles, Frankfurt, London and Paris is donating $2 million to help fund the construction of a clubhouse and keep the high school’s baseball field at the Leo F. Ryan Sports Complex on Chatfield Street.
The committee had been discussing moving the field from the complex which is within walking distance of the High School to Witek Park which is on the other side of the city near Sentinel Hill and David Humphreys roads. It would require busing the high school team there.
“I want to thank the Payden Family for the private donation of $2 million,” said Mayor Anita Dugatto during Thursday’s Board of Aldermen meeting. “The $2 million is a great, great gift and the city of Derby appreciates it 1,000 percent.”
Derby, the state’s smallest city, has been struggling lately. Last year officials approved a 3.64 mill rate hike pushing it to 39.37. This year there are expected increases in WPCA assessments to pay for $31 million in sewer treatment improvements. That comes at a time when Walmart and Adams Supermarket closed their stores last year. Additionally all the businesses on one side of Main Street will soon be demolished as the state prepares to turn the two-lane roadway into four-lanes.
“Derby is where my heritage begins,” Payden said in a prepared statement. “I’m happy to give back to the high school my father so enjoyed.”
After high school her father attended and eventually graduated from Yale University’s Sheffield Scientific School of Engineering. He interrupted his studies to enlist in the U.S. Army Signal Corps Aviation Division when World War I broke out. Wanting to fly but unable to do so because the U.S. had no Air Force, Payden went to England. There he flew missions as a fighter pilot for the Royal Flying Corps.
After the War, he completed his degree and joined Union Carbide. He later became the chief executive officer of Union Carbide Java Ltd. in Indonesia.
The donation comes about a year after Conway decided to cut $1 million for the demolition of the old field house and construction of a new one from a $5 million state grant proposal. The state came through with $2.9 million to install an artificial turf football field and running track, which cut into the baseball field.
“She (Joan Payden) wants a first class state of the art field house,” said Conway. He envisions it as a museum with 100 years of mementos from Derby High School sports, a meeting place for local recreational groups and even a catering center using students as interns. It will also have dressing and shower facilities for male and female student sports.
He said Joan Payden, who funds an annual $6,000 scholarship for the High School valedictorian, first spoke to Martin Pascale, the High School’s principal two weeks ago about helping out. Pascale put her in touch with Conway and the superintendent took it from there.
“She said her father played football but the principal love of her father and (late) brother Bill was baseball,” Conway said.
So a portion of the money is expected to be used to redesign the high school baseball field to keep it on the complex. This probably will require some of the Little League fields to be moved to Bradley School or Witek Park.
The relocation committee will discuss this further next week.
In the meantime, the city has sent out Requests for Qualifications for interested architects. They have been asked to respond by Feb. 14.