Locals launch North Country Sports Council
SARANAC LAKE — Saranac Lake native Matthew Dougherty, along with other North Country natives, have officially launched a new Saranac Lake-based, not-for-profit sports and entertainment council called the North Country Sports Council.
Dougherty, who was named the interim executive director of the NCSC, said the main goal of the organization is to drive economic development in the North Country. The organization will look at funding projects that will help with already-established events to generate enough income to become self-sustaining, and will also work toward bringing in new events to the surrounding area.
“The funding is actually one of the things we’re looking to help with,” Dougherty said. “That’s one of the main reasons we exist is to help organizations that maybe want to get an event and they need access to funding or they don’t know about all the different funding sources that exist throughout New York state, whether it be grants or through the state itself.”
For the past few years, Dougherty has worked at Paul Smith’s College as the school’s Nordic ski coach, having helped guide the school’s men’s Nordic team to its first-ever National Championship in March 2022. Last year, the men’s finished second overall and the women’s team placed third.
He also was one of four coaches for the U.S. Biathlon team at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Winter World University Games in January. Dougherty will still coach the team, while simultaneously working as the interim executive director.
“I’m the interim now, some of its procedural and how 501(c)3’s run,” he said. “But, I plan to be involved for a good number of years at this time.”
The organization was created on Oct. 16. Saranac Lake native Neil Fortier will be the chair of the council, and five-time Olympian and Vermontville native Billy Demong will be the vice chair. The organization also includes Treasurer Bruce Burge, Secretary Dustin Plumadore, along with associate officers Jeff Vukelic, Brian Monette and Nate Liberman.
“What it is, is basically people who care about the area and are trying to use sports and events to draw some economic boost to the area,” Dougherty said. “I truly believe in the power of sport to help grow this area. We know it has and I think there is just a tremendous wealth of assets and venues that could be utilized at a better clip and bringing in more people to the area.”
Despite being based in Saranac Lake and listing only venues in the villages of Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, the town of Malone and the hamlet of Paul Smith’s on its website, the NCSC is hoping to work with everybody in the North Country region, according to Dougherty.
“So that’s Essex County in Lake Placid for events as well,” he said. “But, I’d say we have a lot of focus to the North Country and bringing events to those areas.”
While the Lake Placid-based Adirondack Sports Council has existed for more than 20 years now, Dougherty said the main difference between the two is their focuses.
“We’re really focused on the North Country area and the assets and venues that already exist in these smaller towns around the area,” he said.
The Adirondack Sports Council served as the organizing committee for the 2023 World University Games and for the Empire State Winter Games, in addition to a variety of other events. The Adirondack Sports Council is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission of serving the Adirondacks and — with the addition of backing the upcoming IIHF Women’s Hockey World Championship in Utica — New York state as a whole.
“The Adirondack Sports Council recently learned of the North Country Sports Council,” Adirondack Sports Council Executive Director Tracy Smith said in a statement. “We are working to gather more details at this time and look forward to learning more about their mission.”
Currently, the NCSC hasn’t announced any future events, but Dougherty said some things are currently in the works and could be announced in the next few months.
“We’ll have some events that we are able to announce that we’re actually getting close to already,” he said. “We just need to move them through a few more steps to get through.
“There are events like bringing high school skiing championships to the VIC,” Dougherty added. “Can we help do that, so that facility is used better and we draw some people into that area of the North Country a little bit more?”