WORCESTER – The Worcester Cowboys are the New England Regional Champions after going undefeated this season and have been invited to the 2017 American Youth Football National Championships in Florida next month.

But they need your help. And there isn’t a lot of time.

The 27 members of the  Cowboys’ U12 Blue Team need to be in Florida from Dec. 2 to Dec. 10 to participate in the National Championships and it’s going to cost nearly $30,000 for all 27 players to make the trip, according to the team’s GoFundMe page.

As of Friday afternoon, the team had raised only $815 of their $30,000 goal.

Although each child will be responsible for their own costs of making the trip, coach Marty Hanus – who created the GoFundMe campaign – wrote on the team’s page  “Can you imagine being a 12 year old city kid with the opportunity to compete in a sport you love in Florida in December and in the same breath be told you need to come up with what can seem to be an insurmountable amount of money to live that dream?”

“Our Cowboys team has a motto, Win Every Day.  What this means to them is that they should be striving for success in everything they do on and off the field.  We engrain in them the understanding that it’s not just about the sport of football.  It is their responsibility as maturing young men to be upstanding citizens. They are to respect their parents and their teachers, excel in the classroom and help those less fortunate than themselves.

“Now on top of everything else, we’re asking them to climb a mountain they lack the tools to scale.
That is why we need you to join our team.  Please take a moment to make a donation and help these young men become a part of something greater than themselves,” Hanus added.

To make a donation, please visit the Cowboys’ GoFundMe Page.

WORCESTER – A government survey issued by the City of Worcester and developed by Cobalt Community Research to gather input from residents on city operations was delivered to an eight-year-old Worcester resident. 

The survey, the 2017 City of Worcester Strategic Engagement & Priority Study, is made up of 36 questions aimed at gathering responses from city residents on issues such as police, fire and emergency responses, the local public school system, transportation infrastructure, taxes, the city’s economic health and a slew of other issues designed to get input from registered voters and residents with an understanding of how the city works.

ThisWeekinWorcester.com reporter Nick D’Andrea’s eight-year-old daughter received the survey in the mail late last week.

“My initial response was this couldn’t be what I thought it was. When I opened up the letter and saw that they had sent the survey to my eight-year-old daughter, I started to get angry,” D’Andrea said.

“What list could the city use that would pull an eight year old as a recipient?  I would like to know how many other children received this letter.  That is the most concerning part of this whole thing.  How many children were exposed to this research company and what do they plan to do with that list after this study is done,” he added.

According to Eric D. Batista, Chief of Operations and Project Management for City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr.’s office, the City knew there was a chance that children and people under the voting age would receive the survey.

“On the survey that was sent out to the people in Worcester, we took the census data. We wanted to get as much diversity in terms of the people we sent it out too. We knew that some of the individuals in the survey were going to be children because they’re part of the census data,” Batista said in an interview on Monday, Nov. 20.

“It was a survey on strategic engagement and priority. [The City] did not need to use the census data for it.  A simple voter list would have sufficed,” D’Andrea said. “I sat down with my daughter and we read the questions.  She didn’t understand half the words being used.”

According to Batista, 4,000 surveys were mailed out on Thursday, Nov. 16 to people between the ages of eight and — startlingly — 195. As of Friday, the city had received between 280 to 300 completed surveys online.

“We’re working on multiple avenues to be able to do this. One we chose was that we sent out a survey to registered voters to use a code online. We’re doing four to five focus groups and other surveys — each with their own code — as well.  We still haven’t done the focus groups yet. We’re hoping to get a significant response from people in the community,” Batista said, adding that the focus groups would happen before the end of the year.

When asked what kind of response to the survey that the city was hoping for from children, Batista said, “When the sample was selected from the census data, it wasn’t disseminated and looked at specifically for ages. It was an exact, raw sample from the census data and that was the sample the survey was mailed out to.”

“We hope that the parents or a family member would help fill the survey out with the child,” Batista added. “Our consultant [Colbalt] was not going to go through each individual raw data to select the ones of voting age. They said they were going to select a sample from the census data and send them out.”

Batista said that the survey is available online, was passed out at some polling locations during this month’s municipal elections, and can be picked up at Worcester’s city hall and public library.

When asked if children being the recipients of the survey hurts the amount of responses the city gets back, Batista said it wasn’t much of a concern.

“We don’t think so. We’re using a lot of different avenues to get answers to this survey. Just this sample alone wasn’t going to be the only avenue for us to get community input.We’re trying to find a lot of ways for people to communicate and engage in this process, rather than just one sample in itself. We’re not too worried about the answers which may or may not be skewed by individuals that can’t or won’t respond to it,” Batista said.

There’s no set goal in mind for how many responses the City hopes to get, but are aiming high for at least a ten percent return rate.

Batista said, “We know ten percent is a high number. We researched other cities that have done similar surveys and what we got back was the average response is around three to five percent.”

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s time to start making lists of gifts to get for your loved ones. In Worcester, you may want to check that list twice to make sure you can afford those presents.

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

According to a new report from financial data experts Wallethub — 2017 Holiday Budgets By City — the average maximum holiday budget for individuals living in Worcester is $377. Among 570 U.S. cities, Worcester ranks near the bottom at #530.

The report states that the National Retail Federation predicts the average per-person tab this holiday season will reach $967  — nearly three times more than Worcester’s holiday budget — up nearly 3.4 percent since 2016.”

Wallethub gathered their data for maximum holiday budget for each of the 570 U.S. cities using five key characteristics of the population, such as income, age and savings-to-monthly expenses ratio.

Among cities in Massachusetts, Worcester ranks better than only Lawrence (#541),Springfield (#560) and Brockton (#566).

To see how Worcester’s holiday budget compares to other U.S. cities, scroll over map below.

Source: WalletHub

WORCESTER – On Sunday, Nov. 12, Ewell Yona, 21, of Worcester was shot and killed following an altercation during a concert at Masquerade nightclub in Atlanta, Georgia.

Diaz and Yona

Jonathan Bautista, 23, was arrested on Wednesday on two counts of murder and two counts of aggravated assault. He was arrested without incident.

Bautista also fatally shot 22-year-old Giovan Diaz of Worcester. Two other people in attendance were injured.

The concert was headlined by rapper and Dorchester native Cousin Stizz.

According to numerous reports, Yona and Diaz had just moved to Atlanta with Worcester native Curtis Kariuki to film a documentary. [Kariuki made the popular Worcester drone video.]

Early reports suggested that Diaz and Yona jumped on the stage at the concert in between concert acts and Bautista took issue with it.

Following the shooting, Kariuki started a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the funeral costs for Yona and Diaz. At press time, it has raised nearly $12,000 of its $15,000 goal.


WORCESTER – On Wednesday afternoon at Worcester’s DCU Center, the National Arena League [NAL] formally announced the addition of a new league franchise — the Massachusetts Pirates.

The Pirates are the newest addition to the NAL and one of seven teams for the 2018 season.

In attendance at the team’s announcement was DCU Center General Manager Sandy Dunn, Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr and Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President Timothy P. Murray.

Representing the NAL was Commissioner Chris Siegfried and NAL Expansion Chairman Jeff Bouche. 

“[Worcester] is a great place for this sport. The [DCU Center] is fantastic. It’s going to be a hit,” Siegfried said.

“National Arena League.  I want you to remember this name. We are in the second year of something outstanding. If you’ve never been to a game like this, you don’t know what you’re in for. It’s an outstanding game and it’s built with the fans in mind,” Siegfried added. “It’s an amazing game and an intimate atmosphere.”

Team president Jawad Yatim, of Shrewsbury, who was joined by his family and presented the crowd with a promotional video, said, “I couldn’t be more excited to provide affordable professional football entertainment for Worcester and all of Massachusetts.”

Also in attendance at the press conference was three-time Super Bowl Champion and former New England Patriot Patrick Pass, and Patriots All-Century Center and former first round draft pick, NFL lineman of the year and current Patriots alumni president, Pete Brock.

Brock said, “We’ve seen what football done right can really mean to a community. There’s going to be lots of people here on game day and the youth in the community will be inspired.”

Team Present Jawad Yatim/Photo: Alex MacDougall

As ThisWeekinWorcester reported earlier this week, the Pirates head coach is former Western Michigan University lineback Amir Ismael and former CIFL New England Surge head coach Rick Buffington will serve as vice president of football operations. The Surge was an indoor football team that played at the DCU Center from 2007 to 2008

Before the Surge – a member of the Continental Indoor Football League – was the 1994 Massachusetts Marauders, part of the Arena Football League that played at the then Worcester Centrum.

The NAL’s regular season will run from April to July and playoffs will begin in August.

The league consists of seven teams including the Pirates,  reigning champion Jacksonville Sharks, Columbus Lions, the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks and the previously announced expansion franchise Jersey Flight. Teams in Portland, ME and Greensboro, NC will be announced later this month.

To purchase season tickets to the Pirates, click here.

You can watch the full Press Conference below:

WORCESTER – Mambo Drink, a Water St. nightclub with a history of incidents and liquor license violations, has been placed on six-month probation by the Worcester License Commission.

The probation calls for Mambo Drink to be closed on the weekend of Dec. 2 and 3, and to shut down business at 1 AM instead of 2 AM from Thursday to Sunday over the six-month period that began in early November.

At the most recent license commission hearing on Oct. 26, representatives of Mambo Drink were there to respond to a police report from Sept. 17, 2017, that described an incident that occurred inside Mambo Drink.

A 19-year-old female was involved in a large fight inside Mambo Drink that escalated and spilled outside of the nightclub.

Due to previous violations, Mambo Drink had already been handed a license restriction to be a 21-plus club, following an incident from last August. According to the statement from the 19-year-old, she presented her identification at the door and was allowed entry to the club.

On the night in question, according to the WPD, there was no police detail due to lack of WPD manpower.

When asked to explain the situation that occurred at Mambo Drink, general manager Jonathan Pena said, “Like the last tim, we did everything we could. The police and security guards removed everyone from the premises. Everything was perfectly fine inside.”

“I’ve only seen one altercation inside and everything else has always happened outside. We always say we can’t do anything that goes on outside in the street in Worcester,” Pena added.

In response, Lt. James Johnson of the Worcester Police Department argued that most of the problems the city has on Water St. happen between 1 and  2 AM.

“I’m not saying Mambo is the only problem child we have down there. I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that a lot of the fights that do happen down there, happen in front of that location as a result of coming out of [Mambo] and as a result of some of the things occurring inside,” Johnson said. “[Pena] may be right that he hasn’t seen many fights inside the bar, but there are fights directly in front of that location and are a direct result from what’s happening inside.”

Several attempts by the WPD to obtain video surveillance of that night were unfulfilled with Mambo Drink. Pena denied having any knowledge of being told by the WPD that there was a minor in the nightclub that night, but the WPD responded that they notified Mambo several times of the violation before Pena received the violation in the mail.

Mambo is open evenings from Wednesday to Sunday. Since Dec. 2014, Mambo has had four violations of mismanagement.

License Commission member Walter Shea asked Pena if they had issues with their manager. Pena said he was the manager and had been for two months.

When Shea asked Pena what kind of management experience he had, Pena said he didn’t have any nightclub management experience, but had been a manager at a supermarket.

In May 2017, a large fight broke out in front of Mambo Drink that resulted in the physical assault of WPD officers and three arrests. In Aug. 2016, several people were injured and two were arrested following a large fight at the same location between local gang members and Mambo Drink customers. As noted before, this incident forced the license commission to require Mambo Drink to be 21 plus, have a police officer on site while open, two police officers for special events, and submit a list of upcoming events each month.

Representatives from Mambo Drink will return to the license commission this spring after the six month probation period is up and the commission will decide how to move forward, barring any other incidents at the nightclub.

WORCESTER – A report released this week from the FBI revealed ten incidents of hate crimes occurred in Worcester in 2016.

Among the incidents, six were reported by local law enforcement and included five incidents of hate crimes towards a certain race or ethnicity and one incident involved gender identity.

Four additional incidents occurred on college campuses in Worcester. Clark University reported three incidents and UMass Medical reported one hate crime involving race or ethnicity.

Across Massachusetts in 2016, 414 hate crimes occurred ranging from race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identification.

The report- Hate Crime Statistics 2016 – was released by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program [UCR].  According to the report, 15,254 law enforcement agencies participated in reporting program in 2016 and, of those agencies, 1,776 reported 6,121 hate crime incidents involving 7,321 offenses.

Among single bias incidents in America –  an incident in which one or more offense types are motivated by the same bias – 57.5 percent were motivated by a race/ethnicity/ancestry bias, 21 percent were prompted by religious bias, 17.7 percent resulted from sexual-orientation bias, 2 percent were motivated by gender-identity bias, 1.2 percent were prompted by disability bias and 0.5 percent (31 incidents) were motivated by a gender bias.

To read the FBI’s full report, click here: Hate Crime Statistics 2016 Incidents and Offenses.

WORCESTER – In just its second year in existence — and first as the Worcester 78s — the city’s professional basketball team is climbing this season’s American Basketball Association’s [ABA] power rankings.

As of Nov. 13, Worcester [3-0] is ranked #4 in the ABA’s top 25 rankings — behind only South Florida Gold, Orlando Waves and Richmond Elite.

78’s Forward Jose Cruz, Jr/Photo: Worcester 78’s

“We have special players at the top of our roster and depth all the way through,” 78s owner Tom Marino said when asked what he can attest to the team’s achievements.

In their 151-131 victory on Nov. 11 over the Atlantic Coast Cardinals, guard Tony Gallo 45 points and guard Sam Longwell added 31 points.

New forward Jose Cruz, Jr. [pictured] has had a double-double in two of the three 78s victories this season. Collectively, the team is averaging more than 135 points per game.

“[Head coach Anthony Leonelli] has not just assembled very strong players, but also the right mix of ball dominant players, skilled passers who are responsible with the ball and players with toughness and grit who win rebounds and get stops. It’s only been three games, but I’m excited for what this group has the potential to accomplish,” Marino said.

“Stick [Cruz], a double-double machine, alongside [forwards] Mark [Cornelius] and Dominick [Mastascusa] who win rebounds and get stops and this group has the potential to do special things,” Marino added.

For full video of last week’s game, click below:

The 78s next home game is this Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Boys & Girls Club at 65 Tainter Street in Worcester versus the New York Court Kings at 7 PM.

If you’re living in Worcester and find yourself lonely night after night, you may want to consider moving to San Francisco — ranked as the #1 city in America for single people.

Worcester, on the other hand, was ranked #127 of 182 cities in data experts Wallethub’s new report: 2017’s Best & Worst Cities for Singles.

The report, which ranks Worcester behind other New England cities like Boston, Manchester, Providence, Portland, Nashua and Burlington, compiled data from all of the cities and measured it using 32 indicators including  share of single population to number of online dating opportunities to nightlife options per capita.

Worcester ranked extremely poorly in “economics” and “fun & recreation,” but finished 56th among the 182 cities in dating opportunities — meaning that there’s a large single population in Worcester, but not enough activities, restaurants, etc. per capita for the single population.

See the map below to see how Worcester ranked compared to other cities in the United States.

Source: WalletHub

WORCESTER – A major announcement is expected on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Worcester’s DCU Center introducing the city to its new arena football team.

As ThisWeekinWorcester.com reported last month, Worcester will be home to the Massachusetts Pirates — the newest arena football team in the National Arena League [NAL] – beginning in April 2018.

In an interview on Monday, Nov. 13, team owner and CEO Hassan Yatim told ThisWeekinWorcester.com, “This is a high level arena football league. They’re going to bring a lot of energy and excitement to the fans. It’s good quality football.”

“The way the game is played involves the fan more and it’s a lot more interesting than other arena leagues,” Yatim added.

Yatim, of Shrewsbury, is a co-owner of Yatco Energy Corporation based in Northborough.

Yatim said that the team will be playing seven or eight home games at the DCU Center plus playoff games if the team advances after the regular season. Ticket prices have yet to be determined, but Yatim said the prices will be “reasonable.”

“They’re working on the prices. It’s a very reasonable price for families to come and have fun for a night or come there during an afternoon game,” Yatim said.

Yatim’s son, Jawad, is the President of the team and in charge of operations. Jawad will also be the team’s backup quarterback.

The head coach is former Western Michigan University lineback Amir Ismael and former CIFL New England Surge head coach Rick Buffington will serve as vice president of football operations. The Surge was an indoor football team that played at the DCU Center from 2007 to 2008

Before the Surge – a member of the Continental Indoor Football League – was the 1994 Massachusetts Marauders, part of the Arena Football League that played at the then Worcester Centrum, but folded due to low attendance numbers.

An arena football field is only 50 yards long [half the length of an NFL field] with walls along the sidelines.

The NAL was formed just this year and is made up of six teams: Jacksonville Sharks, Columbus Lions, Lehigh Valley, Steelhawks, Jersey Flight, Monterrey Steel and Georgia Firebirds. However, according to insidethearena.org, the Steel and Firebirds have yet to commit to the 2018 season.

The press conference to announce the team will be held at 3 PM on Wednesday at the DCU Center. It is open to the public and will be inside the Pavilion. All attendees will receive a free t-shirt.

Three-time Super Bowl Champion and former New England Patriot Patrick Pass, and Patriots All-Century Center and former first round draft pick and NFL lineman of the year Peter Brock will be in attendance for the announcement.