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Whiteface Mid-Station rebuild is moving fast

ORDA board asks for regular updates

This rendering shows what a rebuild Mid-Station is expected to look like at the state-owned Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington. (Image provided by the governor's office)

LAKE PLACID — The Mid-Station Lodge rebuild is being expedited — with one condition.

At its meeting Monday, the state Olympic Regional Development Authority Board of Directors authorized CEO Michael Pratt to move forward with purchasing materials for the reconstruction of the lodge, which was destroyed by fire Nov. 30. But that approval came with a caveat: Some board members indicated their approval hinged upon Pratt’s commitment to providing updates, at least on a monthly basis, on the project’s progress.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $14 million in state funding to rebuild the Mid-Station lodge earlier this month. Cuomo’s office said in a news release that “several of the new lodge’s amenities will be ready for use” this November, with total completion of the lodge projected by October 2021.

Pratt said that gives ORDA 280 days to complete the project, which means some measures will need to be taken to expedite the process, like ORDA purchasing materials needed to build the Mid-Station. Typically, a contractor would do that. ORDA then plans to ask the company awarded this project bid to construct the lodge with those pre-purchased materials.

“It’s going to be an aggressive and demanding job to organize everything,” he said.

Board member Art Lussi said he wasn’t comfortable with rubber-stamping a resolution that gives blanket approval to move forward with every phase of the project unless Pratt agreed to form a “working group” that would receive regular updates.

“With a $14 million project and a good-to-go (resolution), I’m not comfortable as a board member supporting that unless there’s a condition,” he said.

Board member Cliff Donaldson suggested the group have five members, but that suggestion was panned by Lussi, who indicated that having more than three board members involved would require the group to record the meeting and open it up to the public, to adhere to the state’s Open Meetings Law.

Pratt told the board he can provide regular updates on the project.

Board member Bill Beaney asked Pratt if the state is requiring the lodge be ready for use by November or if ORDA set that deadline. He wondered if the expedited timeline would make the project more costly.

“Aren’t we better off taking a little bit more time to save a few million?” Beaney said.

Pratt did not explicitly say the November opening was state-imposed. He said “the goal by Nov. 1” is to have “a shell enclosed with bathrooms.” Food service would be added next summer. He also reiterated the deadline released as part of the governor’s announcement, and said he didn’t believe the timeline would dramatically increase the cost.

Asked about how much ORDA’s insurance company would pay out as a result of the lodge burning down, Pratt did not give a specific amount but said the company gave ORDA an “upfront bump” to kick-start the project. The final payout, according to Pratt, will depend on how much it costs to rebuild.

Renderings of the new 10,000-square-foot lodge provided by the governor’s office this month give an idea of what it’s expected to look like: a two-story A-frame with a vaulted ceiling on the upper floor and a wraparound deck. Glass-paneled walls from floor to ceiling would be framed by timber and light gray or black metal and custom stonework.

The former Mid-Station was built in 1960 and housed two restaurants. It was constructed with “modern Swiss design” for around $170,000, according to a Dec. 8, 1960, article in the Lake Placid News. It had ceiling-to-floor glass walls — which the new one will replicate — with views over the mountain’s Mixing Bowl area, where upper trails converge.

The lodge was built with the intention of relieving some of the congestion at the Base Lodge. When Mid-Station opened, it housed a restaurant that seated 125 people on the main floor. The lower floor had restrooms and a first-aid room. A balcony completely surrounded the lodge. A dedication ceremony for the new lodge was held in February 1961.

Mid-Station is the central amenity on the slope of Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington, a state-owned facility that opened in the 1950s. Mid-Station is located between the Lower Valley and Upper Valley runs — main arteries among the ski center’s trails — and at a transition point between chairlifts.

The new lodge will likely be built slightly further north on the mountain, according to Pratt. Its stormwater system will be relocated to the bottom of the mountain.

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