LAKE PLACID - The president of the local company that wants to lease and operate the Sheffield Olympic Speed Skating Oval from the state Olympic Regional Development Authority rejected a counter-offer made by ORDA officials during a meeting this week.
Patrick Kelly, a two-time Olympic speedskater who owns Peak Edge Performance Inc., a sports consulting company, said he met Wednesday with ORDA President and CEO Ted Blazer and Olympic Center Manager Denny Allen. In June, Kelly had submitted a proposal to ORDA's Board of Directors to lease the oval during the winter months for the next four years.
Blazer presented a counter-proposal during Wednesday's meeting, Kelly said.
The Sheffield Olympic Speed Skating Oval in Lake Placid
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"Right now the oval closes two days a week when they have ice, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and they offered to let me to rent the ice for Tuesdays and Wednesdays," Kelly said.
Kelly said he called the offer "unacceptable."
"That's not a counter-proposal," he said. "A counter proposal, in my mind, would have been to make it a two-year lease or a one-year lease with an option, instead of the four years we were seeking. I said, 'Is that your final offer? Do you want to reconsider?' They said 'No, that's what we're offering.' It's a shame."
Touring the unfinished Lake Placid Conference Center
ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin said authority officials thought their counter-proposal, allowing Kelly to run the oval two days a week, was a good start. He said ORDA isn't comfortable turning over the reins of the venue to someone making an unsolicited proposal.
"For us, I think it was an opportunity to learn more about one another and how each of us would do business," he said. "It's a good chance for us to test the waters, but he declined that opportunity."
But Kelly said running the oval for only two days a week doesn't give him a fair chance to show what his company can do, since Tuesday and Wednesday have the fewest of public skaters.
"It also doesn't solve the problem of not having the oval open in November and March, and running it more hours during the week and more hours each day," he said.
Under ORDA's management, Kelly says the amount of public access to the oval for recreational and speedskating has been reduced in recent years. If his company was allowed to run the venue, it would operate for the full winter season and would have a full skating schedule, he said.
"Right now, the operation is very short," he said. "It typically runs from mid-December, when you can make natural ice, through February and into March. It's also very weather-dependent. What we would do is run it with refrigeration from the beginning of November until the end of March. We'd offer at least 50 percent more public sessions during the week. Generally there would just be more availability for the consumer."
As part of his proposal, Kelly has offered to pay the utility costs of running the oval's refrigeration system.
"That would be part of the lease; we would cover all utilities for the oval," he said. "The rest would be negotiable, either a percentage of the public gate or we would work out the money based on the equipment we'd be renting, like the Zamboni, the refrigeration equipment and the building."
Kelly said those details weren't discussed during his meeting with Blazer and Allen.
"We didn't even get that far," he said. "I still have the numbers in my briefcase."
Kelly said he's not giving up and hopes ORDA board members will respond directly to his proposal at their next meeting.
"This is not just about myself and our company," he said. "It seems like it's the community, and definitely the speed-skating community. I think if the public realized how many more public sessions we're going to have, we would get a lot of support."
Since June, the Enterprise has received and published a half-dozen letters to the editor, in support of Kelly's attempt to lease the oval, from speedskaters and speed-skating groups in Massachusetts, Montreal, Ottawa and Nova Scotia.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or email@example.com.