No other bidders so far

Lake Placid plans how it would host 2023 World University Winter Games

Darcy Norfolk, the bid dossier director for the Adirondack North Country Global Sports Committee, stands in front of Lake Placid’s 1932 Olympic Arena in September 2017 holding a cap showcasing the logo from the 1972 Winter World University Games — the last time the event took place in the U.S. Norfolk played a lead role in organizing a successful Lake Placid-centered Adirondack bid for the 2023 games, for which Lake Placid was the sole interested city. (Enterprise photo — Antonio Olivero)

LAKE PLACID — As the end-of-year deadline to submit a formal application for the 2023 World University Winter Games draws nearer, it appears an Adirondack games won’t have to worry about competition. No one else has expressed interest in hosting them.

Meanwhile, three months out from that deadline, the newly formed Adirondack North Country Global Sports Committee has hired a bid director and is planning the details of hosting these two-week games, which would be among the largest-scale events Lake Placid has ever attracted. It’s “similar to the process involved in the 1980 Olympics,” according to Jim McKenna, CEO of the Lake Placid-based Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.

Speaking Thursday morning, Delise O’Meally, the secretary general for the United States International Sports University Federation, spoke glowingly of the Adirondack group’s candidacy and relayed that the International University Sports Federation is “keenly interested to work with this group to make sure it can move forward.” She added that a U.S. city hasn’t bid on a FISU summer or winter multi-sport games since 1993.

“I think they’ve taken the stance they would like to work with a country that is submitting a bid rather than have this competitive level of a bid process,” O’Meally said.

“If things work out, they will not seek out other bids,” McKenna said. “That’s why it’s imperative on our part we can’t linger. We’ve already asked for an extension, and that was granted. But it’s at the point we need to respect FISU’s needs as well, and as long as we are working closely together, it’s our feeling they will not seek other bid cities.

“If we had to pit ourselves against another country,” the ROOST CEO added, “I’m not sure how much further we would go because our costs would skyrocket just for the bidding process.”

The direction of putting together the requisite 200-page bid dossier is being subcontracted out to Darcy Norfolk, a Tri-Lakes local who is the founder of Agency Accelerate. She worked for AdWorkshop for a decade and also serves on the board of directors with the New York Ski Educational Foundation, the Lake Placid Center for the Arts and the Lake Placid Ski Club. She relayed that she is maintaining daily email dialogue with FISU officials through the bid organization process.

Norfolk and McKenna described the bid timeline as tight — focused on finalizing concepts for an athletes’ village, ironing out the accommodation infrastructure and exploring “long-term” sponsorship opportunities that would remain in the area beyond just the 2023 event.

“We think there is traction there,” McKenna said of the long-term sponsorships. “We will find that out.”

He said the cost of the games could be in the ballpark of $30 million, going by what other recent games have run. He added that the size and scope of the support staff and event infrastructure of the games, despite bringing potentially just 1,500 to 2,000 athletes, would require Lake Placid’s entire hotel infrastructure.

“We’ve heard from other bid cities the 30 million dollar range is probably not out of the ballpark — but that’s everything,” McKenna said. “And it is pretty hard to say that, and that’s why we are having a third party evaluate for us, because a lot of people put their capital programs into that and everything else, which is not really part of the operations part of it.”

That third party McKenna speaks of is TSE Consulting, a Swiss firm headquartered in Laussane that specializes in sports and has worked on some venue overlays and development of candidate cities for the past 12 Olympic games. McKenna said TSE will tell the Adirondack group if its budgeting is accurate as well as helping complete a venue overlay.

“We’ve got the cream of the crop,” he said.

Norfolk and the Adirondack committee will meet with FISU officials in November for initial feedback on the bid.

The group emphasized that the event will require the construction of housing to host visiting athletes, and as part of the “long-term legacy” of the games, they hope that housing becomes long-term for local residents.

“It’s evident every day in our community that we do not have enough housing for the people that work here and the seasonal people that come here to work,” Lake Placid village Mayor Craig Randall said. “It is a major problem for every single employer in our community and the greater community to some degree.

“There is room to develop,” he added. “Not all of it right in the Olympic village, but within the region itself there is opportunity.”

Randall said the village and surrounding town of North Elba have contributed $25,000 each for the approximate $250,000 to $300,000 cost of the bid process. McKenna added that Essex County is set to vote at its Monday meeting on contributing $50,000 while the state Olympic Regional Development Authority has contributed $15,000, ROOST $25,000, the Adirondack Foundation $25,000 and the town of Wilmington $500. McKenna said a request has also been put in for a $32,000 New York state grant through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.

“And if we are successful with the bid,” McKenna said, “starting the day after the bid there will be more activity in the region as a result of that leading up to 2023. It will be driving a new type of business that we haven’t seen in a while.”

Lake Placid businessman Art Lussi is a member of the committee, and he emphasized the games are a way to secure venue upgrades to “look competitive on the world view.”

The university games have an academic component, too, and Clarkson University Vice President of External Relations Kelly Ogden-Chezum said an Adirondack games would focus that component on a conference about climate disruption and winter sports engineering. She added that the games plans to partner with The Wild Center nature museum due to its Youth Climate Program. Norfolk said participating colleges could include Clarkson, SUNY Potsdam, St. Lawrence University, SUNY Canton, North Country Community College, Paul Smith’s College, SUNY Plattsburgh, Clinton Community College, Skidmore College, Adirondack Community College, Champlain College, the University of Vermont, St. Michael’s College, Middlebury College and possibly others, including some in Canada. Students and locals would be welcome to participate in the academic conference component of the games.

The games would also require an International Broadcast Center to feed global viewership, potentially through the Eurosport television network. Norfolk said this year’s Almaty winter games were available to 350 million viewers, and there is room to grow that viewership here in the states.

Lussi and ORDA Vice President Jeff Byrne also said planned improvements to ORDA facilities used for the games, such as current work to refrigerate in-runs at the Olympic ski jump complex, will be critical to put on the games in the event of non-ideal winter weather, while also keeping costs down.

“When it gets warm or rains,” Byrne said, “the in-runs basically have to be rebuilt over four days. And if there are five weather events a winter, you lose 20 days of training, you lose a lot of money. You can come back quicker from weather events.”


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today