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ORDA puts Olympic Center tunnel on hold

ORDA Board OKs mountain coaster contract

This design image shows what the exterior of an overhauled Lake Placid Olympic Center’s box office entrance is expected to look like after an expected $100 million upgrade to the complex. (Provided image — ORDA)

LAKE PLACID — The state Olympic Regional Development Authority is reworking its timeline for upgrades to the Olympic Center ice rink complex as the novel coronavirus continues to throw a wrench into construction projects this season.

At the end of the ORDA Board of Directors’ remote meeting on Monday, ORDA CEO Michael Pratt said the planned construction of a “spectator tunnel” running beneath Cummings Road — connecting the Olympic Center to the Olympic Speedskating Oval — has been postponed.

A portion of Cummings Road was expected to be reduced to one lane from May to June this year as Rifenberg Construction, a Capital Region-based company, built the spectator tunnel and worked on part of a retaining wall near the outdoor oval. Cummings Road was expected to be closed entirely from June to late November or early December. Altogether, the tunnel was slated to cost more than $4.8 million to construct.

Instead, the authority is now shifting gears and focusing on updates to the 1932 and 1980 rinks, as well as the installation of a new refrigeration system at the speedskating oval, Pratt said.

Updates to the USA Rink are being put on the back burner.

Sammy Hart-Gorman, right, of Syracuse, and Gabe Hasselback, of Buffalo, warm up for a speedskating competition at the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid on Feb. 1, 2019. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

The novel coronavirus, paired with state directives to shutter businesses in an effort to curb the spread of it, have derailed tax revenue projections for this fiscal year. At the end of April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed that the state is expected to lose out on around $13 billion in tax revenue this year — and $61 billion over the next four years. Without additional aid from the federal government, Cuomo has warned that cuts to schools and local governments could be necessary. ORDA has received almost $300 million from the state in the last three fiscal years, including $147 million in the state budget enacted in early April. That has allowed the authority to revitalize the state-run 1980 Winter Olympic venues, but the projected shortfalls have cast uncertainty over the state’s finances moving forward.

Cuomo’s New York State on PAUSE executive order also directed most construction projects to cease. Although state agencies and authorities, such as ORDA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, were exempt from the order, officials still ultimately chose to postpone many projects out of caution.

Amid this new landscape, ORDA decided to circle its wagons around what the authority’s leadership considers to be the focal point of the Olympic Center: its historic ice rinks and speedskating oval.

“We felt we would not be successful in completing (the tunnel) this summer,” Pratt said. “We have gotten by without it so far. We felt that was a project we should defer so we could focus on what we saw as the core of the Olympic Center project.”

In the 1980 arena, ORDA is planning 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 the addition of new team rooms and wayfinding signage.

This design image shows what the interior of an overhauled Lake Placid Olympic Center is expected to look like. (Image provided by ORDA)

Altogether, early projections set the Olympic Center upgrades at $100 million.

Mountain coaster

In addition to adopting authority-wide paid family leave and whistleblower policies, the board also voted on Monday to authorize Pratt to sign a contract with Luck Brothers, according to spokesperson Elise Ruocco.

The Olympic Center’s 1980 Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

With the signing of the more than $1.4 million contract with Luck Brothers, a construction firm based in Plattsburgh, the authority is asking the company to build structures connected to a new mountain coaster at the Mount Van Hoevenberg bobsled-skeleton-luge track. Those structures include a new cart storage building, loading deck and attendant shed. The company is also being asked to extend a deck and canopy.

An expected timeline for this project was not included in the board’s resolution on Monday.

As of March, Mount Van Hoevenberg upgrades were projected to cost upward of $60 million. The new base lodge there was expected to open in the winter of 2021. Other work, including new ski trails and stadium construction, was scheduled for completion in 2021 or 2022.

A media advisory sent ahead of the board of directors’ meeting on Monday included incorrect information on how to listen in on the board’s deliberations. Though the correct number was eventually provided, the Enterprise was unable to join the call until the board was about to adjourn. A full recording of the meeting was not immediately available on Monday.

The Crystal Edges synchronized skating team sails by a crowd in formation at the Skating Club of Lake Placid’s “A Skater’s Wish” show in December 2019 at the Lake Placid Olympic Center’s 1932 Rink. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

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