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Paying for the Empire State Winter Games

December 7, 2010
By CHRIS KNIGHT, Enterprise Senior Staff Writer

LAKE PLACID - Local officials moved quickly to take over the Empire State Winter Games.

Now, they've got to figure out a way to pay for them.

Mayor Craig Randall outlined some of those initial plans at Monday's meeting of the village Board of Trustees. He said he recently discussed Lake Placid's effort to keep the games going with North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi, Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston, state Olympic Regional Development Authority President and CEO Ted Blazer, Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO James McKenna and others.

"I would call it an organizational meeting because it was the first meeting where all of us actually sat down with any meaningful information in front of us," he said.

The meeting came less than two weeks after the state decided to cancel all its Empire State Games programs due to an ongoing budget crisis in Albany. Funding for the summer and winter games, Games for the Physically Challenged and Senior Games in 2011 was cut and state employees responsible for running the games have either been laid off or reassigned.

Just days after that news went public, officials in Lake Placid held a press conference to announce that they were teaming up to keep the winter games going where they've been held for the past 31 years.

Randall said Monday that the games, for now, will be administered by Lake Placid-Essex County Quality Destinations Inc., which he described as an inactive nonprofit organization created by the Visitors Bureau several years ago.

To cover initial costs of organizing the games, Randall said the village and the town of North Elba have each agreed to contribute $5,000. The Visitors Bureau has offered $5,000 and the town of Wilmington $2,000. Randall said he didn't know what ORDA will be able to contribute, although he said all the municipalities and organizations involved are expected to provide in-kind services.

A full budget hasn't been developed yet, but Randall said the village has been given budget information from the state. It cost New York about $300,000 to host this year's winter games, Randall said. The state had proposed using about half that amount, roughly $150,000, for 2011 until it was cut from the budget.

To raise money for the games, Lake Placid officials have assembled a sponsorship team that includes Gordy Sheer, Dmitry Feld, Gary Smith, Jeff Potter, Dennis Ryan, McKenna, David Catalfamo and Jeff Byrne.

"This group will particularly be assigned the task of going out and seeing what we can do to sell sponsorships in the Empire State Games," Randall said. "That's where we hope to fund the games from, not only this year but in the future."

Entry fees, which the state started charging last year, will be continued and possibly expanded, Randall said.

In previous years, the state paid for meals and accommodations for officials and some athletes. Local officials are working out a plan to at least take care of the officials, Randall said.

"We have a discussion going on with an entity that may well provide their lodging," he said. "If that happens, that cost would be taken away."

Joe Lamb has been tasked with coordinating entertainment for the games, which could include local musicians and performers. The Visitors Bureau's Kathy Pfohl will serve as program director, and ORDA's Jim Goff will be in charge of venue logistics, Randall said.

He said he hopes to be able to provide a full budget for the games after the group's next meeting.

"Our vision is that this is something the community and the Olympic region has ownership of," he said. "It's something for the community to get behind and get involved in. We think we're going to be able to do a great job with it, without spending as much money. We probably should have assumed these a long time ago. But in hindsight, the state's misfortune is our good fortune."

The village board approved a resolution to contribute $5,000 to the games. Trustees David Jones and Art Devlin were absent from the meeting.


Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or



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