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Van Ho lodge taking shape

The framework for a new base lodge at the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex is seen Christmas Day, 2019. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — Construction continues at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

At the base of the 1980 bobsled track, where just two months ago there was dirt and wooden framework for a concrete stairway, a towering three-story steel frame now stands surrounded by construction vehicles. The new base lodge at the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex is gradually taking shape.

Winter has brought the OSC to life. The cross-country ski center, and a portion of the 50 kilometers of trail there, opened for the season last month. The state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which manages the OSC, has hosted one luge World Cup event and two bobsled-skeleton World Cup events at Mount Van Hoevenberg in the last month. At the center of it all is a construction area, surrounded by signs that show visitors a vision of what the future of the complex holds.

One of those signs advertises a new Alpine coaster being built at the OSC — essentially a rail car, with the carriages expected to look like bobsleds — as “North America’s longest mountain coaster.” The coaster, which will follow the path of the 1980 bobsled track, is being constructed by Luck Brothers, of Plattsburgh, for more than $3.1 million.

The plan was initially to have two mountain coasters, but according to ORDA spokeswoman Elise Ruocco, one coaster is being constructed.

“The uphill portion of the mountain coaster has been installed and construction will continue throughout spring/summer of 2020 to finalize the project,” she said in an email.

The mountain coaster is slated to open to the public next fall.

Altogether, upgrades at Mount Van Hoevenberg were expected to cost between $40 to $50 million as of June. The majority of that price tag stems from the construction of the new base lodge. CEO Michael Pratt said this summer the lodge alone would likely cost $32 million.

The 30,000-square-foot lodge, being built by The Pike Company, is expected to double as headquarters for the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, with a third-floor outlook that would allow visitors to watch bobsled teams practice. The building is also expected to serve hikers who visit a new trailhead to Cascade, Pitchoff and Porter mountains that is being constructed on site; and house a gift shop, cafe, several lounges and other amenities for biathletes and Nordic ski enthusiasts. Signage at the OSC says the base lodge will open “winter 2020-2021.”

Other upgrades at the OSC include the construction of 4 kilometers of new trails and a new biathlon stadium — both expected to be completed by fall 2021 — and the installation of a new 8-million gallon snowmaking reservoir with storage. The new trailhead to Cascade, Pitchoff and Porter mountains is in the works.

Ruocco said there has not been a specific scheduled opening date for the new trailhead, but construction will resume in spring 2020. Construction on the new snowmaking reservoir, she said, “is underway.”

The new amenities at the OSC are part of a large-scale, state-funded overhaul of sports venues in the Adirondacks and Catskills parks managed by ORDA.

In Lake Placid and Wilmington, the changes at the OSC, the Olympic Jumping Complex, Whiteface Mountain Ski Center, the Olympic Center and the Olympic speedskating oval are being undertaken in the leadup to the 2023 World University Games, a sporting event billed as second only in size to the Olympics. The Games, sometimes called the Winter Universiade, are expected to draw upward of 2,500 student-athletes to Lake Placid from Jan. 12 to Jan. 23, 2023.

At Gore Mountain in North Creek, a variety of large-scale improvements to the ski area have been completed in the last few years. In 2017, ORDA oversaw the renovation of the Saddle Lodge, the conversion of the former gondola unloading station into the Straight Brook Lodge, and the expansion of the Northwoods Lodge, according to the Glens Falls Post-Star. This year, ORDA oversaw the construction of a two-story base lodge addition, and the installation of electric car charging stations, new downhill mountain biking trails and a zipline ride. In collaboration with the town of Johnsburg and the New York Ski Education Federation, ORDA also oversaw the construction of the Burnt Ridge Mountain Warming Cabin.

In the Catskills, ORDA contracted The Pike Company to expand and renovate the Discovery base lodge at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Resort for $14.6 million. The lodge reopened ahead of the 2019-20 ski season.

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