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Expanded winter games set to kick off

January 12, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - For the News ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The Empire State Winter Games are ready to roll for 2012.

Organizers briefed the media on the event Thursday, Jan. 5 at the Conference Center at Lake Placid. Close to 1,200 athletes are expected to participate this year.

Jim McKenna, president of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the Games have changed significantly since the state stopped supporting them in 2010 due to a fiscal crisis.

Article Photos

Chris Morris/For Lake Placid News
Ron Keough, councilman for the town of Harrietstown, and Jeff Byrne, vice president of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, check out a torch from the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles during an Empire State Winter Games press conference Thursday, Jan. 5 in Lake Placid.

The big difference this year is that the Games won't have any funding from the state. Parts of the 2011 event - uniforms and medals, for example - had already been paid for by the time the state backed out. McKenna said the 2012 Games, scheduled for Feb. 1 to Feb. 5, will be completely funded through a public-private partnership that includes local governments and businesses.

Last year's event cost about $100,000. McKenna said he expects the coalition to pull together about $90,000 this year, which will include contributions from Essex County and the villages of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, as well as the towns of Wilmington, North Elba, Harrietstown, St. Armand, Keene and Jay.

Several new sponsors have signed up as well, including Sotheby's International Realty, Correctional Eye Care Network Services, Ski Monkey and Paul Smith's College.

Paul Smith's College spokesman Ken Aaron told the Enterprise that supporting the Games was a natural fit.

"As the College of the Adirondacks, we're glad to introduce ourselves to the many athletes and their families who will be coming to the region for the Games, and reminding them that this is as great a place to learn as it is to play," Aaron said in an email.

Stewart's Shop and Price Chopper return as sponsors this year.

McKenna said the coalition hasn't attracted as many sponsors as it had hoped at this point, but he added that organizers are "perfectly comfortable in proceeding with the direction of the Games."

The Games will add adaptive biathlon and Nordic combined to its roster of events this year. They will also have some more extreme events, like ski- and snowboard-cross. Saranac Lake village Clerk Kareen Tyler will again organize an Olympic-style torch run to kick things off.

Jim Goff, program director for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, worked with sports organizations statewide to schedule the Games, which will break from tradition and take place the first weekend of February instead of the last. He said the scheduling change frees up Olympic venues during the busy President's week holiday.

The Games will now coincide with the first week of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. Village Mayor Clyde Rabideau said that's a good thing.

"The more the merrier," he said.

Harrietstown Councilman Ron Keough added that when evaluating last year's event, organizers wanted to make the Games more economically feasible for participants. One way to do that, he said, was to coordinate events across the region.

"Pretty much out of that discussion came a planning guide for when and how long the Games would start and where they'd go, and that would incorporate all the events that were going on in the region," Keough said.

Events are spread across the Olympic region. In Saranac Lake, the Games will showcase the Dewey Mountain Recreation Center and the Mount Pisgah Ski Center. Competitions are also scheduled to take place at Mount Van Hoevenberg, the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex, Whiteface Mountain Ski Center and the Olympic Center.

McKenna said organizers expect to build on last year's success.

"If we look around the table, the games not only serve a purpose for the athletes, but it also serves as a purpose for making us all understand in the region that we work together better as a unit rather than independent towns or villages or counties," he said. "One thing that I'd like to point out that we all feel pretty proud of is that our new logo is 'Adirondacks, USA,' and I think we're going to continue that tradition as we move forward."



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