Lake Placid area lands $62.5M for winter sports venues

Legislature OKs governor's proposal ahead of international competitions

Aerial freestyle skier Maxim Burov of Russia lands a winning jump during World Cup competition at the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid in January. This and other Lake Placid winter sports facilities will be upgraded thanks to a $62.5 million injection of state funds this coming fiscal year. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — Early Saturday morning, New York lawmakers approved Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to invest $62.5 million investment into this Olympic host’s winter sports venues.

In his budget in January, Cuomo said the money would go to the state Olympic Regional Development Authority and include “$50 million for a strategic upgrade and modernization plan to support improvements to the Olympic facilities and ski resorts, $10 million for critical maintenance and energy efficiency upgrades, and $2.5 million appropriated from the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation budget as part of the New York Works initiative.”

Venues that could see improvements include the Olympic Center ice rinks, the ski jumping complex, the Mount Van Hoevenberg complex for biathlon, nordic skiing and sliding sports, the U.S. Olympic Training Center, all in Lake Placid; Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre ski centers in Wilmington, North Creek and Highmount, respectively; and possibly a future curling rink in Saranac Lake.

CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism Jim McKenna said this investment will modernize and help sustain the region’s economic drivers.

“People are well aware many of these facilities were built in the ’70s,” he said. “They’ve had a tremendous impact to the community for the past 40 years, but if we look at places like Vancouver and Salt Lake, it’s hard for us to compete without updates.”

Tate Frantz, a 12-year-old from Lake Placid, soars off the 120-meter ski jump at the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid in March. This and other Lake Placid winter sports facilities will be upgraded thanks to a $62.5 million injection of state funds this coming fiscal year. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

McKenna is also one of the key players in the 2023 Winter World University Games, also known as the Winter Universiade. The International University Sports Federation, the organization that runs the games, named Lake Placid the host city in March. The games are supposed to attract more than 2,500 college athletes from 52 countries to compete in sports such as hockey, curling and snowboarding.

McKenna said this state money will make preparing for the games a little easier over the next five years.

“It takes pressure off, without a doubt,” he said, “and it solidifies that there’s an understanding of what these venues mean to the region. It’s good to have the state’s and the governor’s support.”

North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi agreed with McKenna about the importance of updated venues.

“It’s an important step,” he said. “It’s imperative that Lake Placid sustain its competitiveness and appeal, not only to national but to international sports interests. It’s been long overdue. We went through the same thing between ’32 and ’80.”

Both 1932 and 1980 were years Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics.

“You need to update, or you get lost in the shuffle,” Politi continued. “Given what’s going on in Park City [Utah], we can’t afford to stay behind.”

Salt Lake City and Park City, which hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics, announce in February its intention to host the to 2030 Olympics as well.

In addition to the Universiade, Lake Placid has secured the 2019 International Children’s Games, an International Olympic Committee-sponsored competition for ages 12 to 15. Placidians are also working on a bid for the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games.

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