Lake Placid lands university games
LAKE PLACID — Nobody else could’ve won it, literally.
The International University Sports Federation (FISU) has declared Lake Placid the host site for the 2023 Winter Universiade, otherwise known as the Winter World University Games. The 11-day event is expected to attract more than 2,500 college athletes from 52 countries in sports such as hockey, figure skating, snowboarding, skiing and curling.
Granted, there were no other bidders.
The group that made the bid for the games, the Adirondack North Country Global Sports Committee, recently traveled to FISU headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, and submitted its final presentation on why Lake Placid should be the host city.
“Lake Placid is the perfect location to host this event, which will showcase the very best of New York and the North Country to an international audience,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release announcing the news. “We are proud and fortunate to have both the natural and man-made resources required for the Winter World University Games in our own backyard and we look forward to welcoming athletes from across the globe to experience all the Adirondacks has to offer.”
Though Lake Placid was awarded the title of host city, the plan is to have events throughout the North Country. Hockey would mainly be held at nearby colleges such as SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Plattsburgh and St. Lawrence University in Canton. The skiing and snowboarding events would be at the state-run Whiteface and Gore Mountain ski centers in Wilmington and North Creek, respectively. The bid for the games also proposed building a new curling facility in Saranac Lake; however, details on the exact cost and location are not yet worked out.
The governor’s press release said the local committee and FISU have until June 15 to finalize a formal agreement. At that point, the two groups will start devising an official organizing committee and a master plan for the games.
In February, FISU delegates visited Lake Placid and evaluated ORDA venues and other sporting facilities. At a following press conference, the consensus was that everything looks good, but could benefit from some upgrades and renovations. FISU Winter Games Director Milan Augustin said the Mount Van Hoevenburg cross-country skiing and biathlon center is the only venue that would need a major overhaul.
“Sports like cross country and biathlon are the first which has to be basically built from scratch,” Augustin said.
In Cuomo’s state budget for next fiscal year, he proposed investing $62.5 million to update ORDA venues. If approved by the state Legislature, that could be a real leg up for these games. The Legislature is supposed to pass a state budget by April 1.
Jim McKenna of Lake Placid, a committee member and CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, said the games are five years away, so there will be more than enough time to refurbish venues, many of which were built for the 1980 Winter Olympics.
“It’s not that the venues can’t handle the event,” he said. “They are 40 years old and just have to be refreshed.”
A major aspect of the Winter Universiade is not the games itself but the lasting impact on the region and its resources. In previous public forums on the games, many committee members have acknowledged how hosting the games can improve infrastructure in the Adirondacks.
“It will attract new tourists to our region and fuel a critical engine of the North Country’s economy,” state Sen. Betty Little, a Republican from Queensbury and a committee member for this bid, said in the press release. “I look forward to witnessing its positive effect on our communities for years to come.”
McKenna said sports venues, Plattsburgh International Airport and affordable housing are the first things to consider when updating Adirondack infrastructure.
“It’s not only for the event,” he said. “It has a long-term effect similar to the ’80 Olympics.”