ORDA unveils $100M Olympic Center overhaul
LAKE PLACID — The state Olympic Regional Development Authority is moving forward with a large-scale, $100 million modernization project at the Olympic Center that officials say will “define the Lake Placid experience for the next 30 years.”
The Olympic Center includes the figure skating, hockey and speedskating venues for the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.
Potential projects may include an underground “spectator tunnel” from the ice rink complex to the Olympic Speedskating Oval, a parking garage to replace the parking lot behind the center that ORDA currently shares with the Lake Placid Central School District, an outdoor deck overlooking Main Street, space for a sports bar and restaurant, full replacement of the oval and installation of new refrigeration units, expansion of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and improvements to the 1932 and 1980 arenas as well as the smaller USA rink.
The ORDA Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution Monday authorizing its CEO Michael Pratt to contract with Cannon Design Architectural and Engineering, a company that started in Niagara Falls and now boasts 19 locations across the country, to draw up preliminary schematics for those concepts. The design work alone is projected to cost $803,500 with most of the work expected by Oct. 1, according to ORDA documents.
The company was selected after the authority posted a request for qualifications in the New York State Contract Reporter.
This won’t be the first Olympic venue that Cannon Design has been involved with. The company designed the Richmond Olympic Oval, a multi-sport arena built for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. The company was also involved with designs for the Place Bell, a multi-sport facility in Laval, Quebec, and the new home of Les Canadiennes de Montreal, a professional women’s hockey team.
The Olympic Center project will be state-funded, according to ORDA Communications Director Jon Lundin.
Once the design work is completed and the final projects are chosen and approved, construction at the Olympic Center is expected to last three years, according to Pratt.
“The schematic plans will be utilized to acquire building permits and developing bidding documents for the construction,” Pratt said in a statement. “This historic building is 42 years old and these modernization projects will define the Lake Placid experience for the next 30 years.”
Jim McKenna, CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and president of the Adirondack North Country Sports Council, said the proposed improvements would maintain Lake Placid’s Olympic heritage. He likened the projects to those done in 1977, in preparation for the 1980 Olympic Games.
Unlike in 1977, however, no Olympic bid is being discussed for Lake Placid. Instead, the World University Games, or Winter Universiade, are coming in 2023.
“What you just did,” McKenna told the ORDA board after they voted on the resolution, “it’s as significant, if not more so.”
At the Olympic Center, other improvements have been progressing without much fanfare: ORDA has already replaced all of the lighting in the 1980 rink with LEDs, replaced a third of the seating, installed a new video scoreboard, and is working to modify the rink to allow the authority to host short-track speedskating events there.
Beyond the larger amenities being considered for the Olympic Center, officials are also hoping to see some upgrades designed to improve both athletes’ and visitors’ experiences.
In the 1980 arena, ORDA is looking to improve athletes’ locker rooms with upgraded shower rooms and restrooms, install new “hospitality suites,” make the entrance compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and install new ADA-accessible seating, construct a new concession area and update the bathrooms, among other projects.
In the 1932 arena, similar upgrades are planned, as well as the restoration of balcony seating and addition of new team rooms and wayfinding signage.
A “spectator tunnel” connecting the center to the speedskating oval would include a place for ticket sales and skate rentals, sports equipment service and repair, retail space, another lounge and restrooms.
At the oval, ORDA is looking to install a security fence, improve information technology and power for “timing and broadcast,” and construct storage for safety padding and Zambonis. There may also be renovations to the locker rooms, bathrooms and training area.
ORDA is also considering major changes to the exterior of the center, from the facade design to improved ingress and egress.
“Sports and tourism are the major industries for Lake Placid and the region,” said Mayor Craig Randall in an ORDA press release. “The investments that are being proposed for our recreational facilities are fully supported by the guests and spectators who come to the area. Additionally, we are confident that this activity will spur additional private investment in lodging properties.”
Altogether, ORDA has 30 new projects in the pipeline and $78 million in new project funding from the state this year, according to the authority’s annual report. ORDA also received $60 million in capital funding last year, plus $2.5 million from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The year prior, the state approved $20 million in capital funding for ORDA venues.
A large portion of ORDA’s capital funding has been earmarked for the construction of a new base lodge at Mount Van Hoevenberg, which Pratt estimated could cost upward of $32 million.
Other work slated at Mount Van Hoevenberg includes the construction of a new cross-country ski stadium and two “mountain coasters,” one for recreation and another for transportation; the addition of more cross-country ski trails and updated trailheads — relocated away from state Route 73 — that would connect to Cascade, Porter and Pitchoff mountains; and the incorporation of a new 8-million gallon snowmaking reservoir with storage.
Improvements at Mount Van Hoevenberg are expected to cost up to $60 million, total.
ORDA is also continuing to work on upgrades to facilities at Whiteface, including infrastructure updates designed to make one of the pump station’s snow production more efficient, and at Gore Mountain and Belleayre, where the authority is building a new ski/boardercross course and a new lodge, respectively.
During a meeting with the Enterprise and the Lake Placid News in February, Pratt said that to complete all of the venue upgrades ORDA plans to do, it will need more money from the state that what it has already received.
In that meeting, Pratt said that the Olympic Center itself was in desperate need of renovation and that the ultimate goal was to relocate the authority’s offices out of the Olympic Center to free up more space for retail, food and beverage space. He also said ORDA wanted to upgrade the oval and modify the hockey arenas so they can easily change size, giving them the ability to host figure skating, hockey and short-track speedskating. He did not mention the parking garage, tunnel or facade upgrades. He also did not mention a price tag for all of these improvements at the time, saying ORDA was in the preliminary stages of planning.