NBC concerned about electricity for Placid events

Main Street in Lake Placid is in view without power in February during a 19-hour overnight outage that left this village without power during a busy weekend of tourism and events.
(Enterprise photo -- Antonio Olivero)

Main Street in Lake Placid is in view without power in February during a 19-hour overnight outage that left this village without power during a busy weekend of tourism and events. (Enterprise photo -- Antonio Olivero)

LAKE PLACID — After a pair of sustained power outages cut off electricity to this village earlier this year, concerns about the reliability of Lake Placid and the Olympic Center’s power system have been raised by a flagship broadcast television network.

Ahead of NBC’s broadcast of the 2017 Skate America competition, scheduled for Nov. 24 to Nov. 26 at Herb Brooks Arena, Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said officials from the network have reached out to local representatives to relay their worries that if another extended outage were to occur here, NBC wouldn’t have the proper backup electrical set-up to broadcast out of Lake Placid.

Randall said NBC brought the topic up with the state Olympic Regional Development Authority and Olympic Center Manager Denny Allen then brought it to his attention. The mayor said he then relayed the concerns to National Grid.

“And I said, ‘We at least need to have a discussion about this,'” Randall said. “I think at this point, from the village’s perspective, now that we are aware of a relative weakness that ORDA has with its generators is to help them find a way to get increased generator capabilities for their facility.”

ORDA President and CEO Mike Pratt said National Grid has performed some maintenance to help improve the authority’s situation, though he said the lack of power redundancy remains a worry as a busy season of large scale winter events nears.

“We’ve had a couple of hiccups recently,” Pratt said, “and those hiccups were noticed by a lot of the world players. And this winter we are hosting five events, international events with television that are the U.S. team trials for the Olympics, and we have been questioned by the reliability of the electric power.

“The fact is,” he added, “there is one transmission line that feeds Lake Placid and there isn’t the redundancy of a backup.

“Truthfully, it is on [National Grid] right now,” Pratt continued. “Certainly, we understand that they want to stay reliable and are trying to do a good job. Our options really aren’t very realistic as far as redundancy of generators with the loads that we have. There is no natural gas here — it’d be a diesel fuel type of system. Then all of a sudden you get into so many more issues of how much fuel you need, and with the size of the loads how much you’d burn, it just wouldn’t become a cost effective solution.”

Heading into an Olympic year, the Skate America event is the final of six stops on the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series. The event features three days of competition in ladies, men’s, pairs and ice dance including 60 world-class athletes, some Olympic and world competitors and national champions. It’s returning to Lake Placid for the first time since 2009 after the village also hosted the event in 1979, its inaugural year, and in1981 and 1982.

Randall said that NBC said it will be bringing in some of its own backup generating equipment. But he added that the remaining larger concern is that NBC and ORDA’s backups still wouldn’t be enough.

“ORDA has a relatively limited generating capability which is largely associated with public safety lighting, that sort of thing,” Randall said, “to get people in and out of the building.

“It does not and it’s not sufficient at the present time to support the refrigeration equipment, for example, if they had to maintain the ice.” the mayor continued. “It’s arguable the ice would be secure for two or three hours in a power outage.”

Randall added that Kimball Daby, Lake Placid’s electric superintendent, would be contacting the New York Power Authority regarding potential help in funding redundancy improvements to the Olympic Center. With that, Randall said the lingering questions are a blight on Lake Placid’s resume as the village pursues bringing several large scale multi-sport winter events here in the coming years, including the Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2021 and the World University Games in 2023. Lake Placid was awarded the 2019 International Children’s Games last month.

The village has increased its communication and met several times with National Grid this summer after a power outage cut electricity to this village for nearly 20 hours in February. Then again in June the village lost power during a busy Sunday afternoon and evening of events.

“When you are out in the world bidding for world events and international events, this is not the kind of question that you want to have come up at the table,” Randall said, “unless you have all the answers. And developing the right responses is what we are doing.”

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