LAKE PLACID - The Empire State Winter Games, which will be held Feb. 6-9, will expand once again as Tupper Lake joins the fold.
"Tupper Lake is very excited to be included in this great opportunity of helping host the Empire State Games for 2014," Tupper Lake events coordinator Michelle Clement said Friday during a press conference hosted by event organizers at the Lake Placid Conference Center. "It's a great regional event and, Tupper Lake, we would really like to support the event and help to grow the event. We're honored to be included in the event."
Tupper Lake will host the women's ice hockey games at its rink in the Civic Center. The village and town of Tupper Lake join a long list of other hosts that includes the towns of North Elba, Harrietstown, Brighton, Wilmington and Jay; villages of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake; counties of Essex and Franklin; the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) and the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).
Tupper Lake events coordinator Michelle Clement announces Friday that Tupper Lake will be part of the Empire State Winter Games in February for the first time at a press conference at the Lake Placid Conference Center. To her right is Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Director Katy Van Anden.
Mike Lynch/Lake Placid News
Other new developments this year include the addition of a squirt hockey tournament with youngsters competing for ESWG medals. Also, adaptive participation is expected to increase, including a sled hockey exhibition and demonstration on Saturday as part of the ESWG Fest on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval on Main Street in Lake Placid.
The skating oval, where Eric Heiden won five Olympic gold medals in 1980, will host ESWG competition and fun events for the public, followed by a fireworks display, courtesy of Young Explosives.
This the 34th year overall for the Games and fourth since it has been led by the local coalition of organizations and municipalities. A torch run will kick off festivities Wednesday, Feb. 5, and will travel through the North Country to its destination in Lake Placid at the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremonies, free and open to the public, will be held at 6 p.m. the next day in the Olympic Center's 1980 Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid. That will occur one night prior to the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
"That certainly is going to be a great tie-in this year," said organizing committee member James McKenna, CEO of ROOST. "Clearly what separates this event (from) any other in the country is the fact that we have ceremonies with it and that is sort of modeled after the Olympic ideal."
McKenna said that the Empire State Winter Games is "the largest multi-sport event in the United States on an annual basis, and we're adding more so that's of significance for us."
Organizers hope to attract more than 1,000 participants to the Games.
Twenty-one different disciplines will be contested, from alpine skiing to figure skating to women's ice hockey. There will be six different adaptive contests, with a higher level of competitive adaptive alpine racers who will ski the challenging Draper's Drop course at Whiteface Mountain. Adaptive races in biathlon are set for the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg, with adaptive cross country sprints on the Olympic Oval.
The alpine skiing competitions will include athletes from the New York State Ski Racing Association. In recent years, organizers have also included more "new school" events with skicross, boardercross and slopestyle competitions, most coming under the banner of the United States of America Snowboard Association.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for our young people throughout New York state to have an opportunity to experience an Olympic-caliber, an Olympic-level experience that ... many of them would not have the opportunity to do," Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said. "When you look back at the history of the Empire State Winter Games over 34 years, there are many, many of our young people, not only from around the state, but certainly from our communities that have gone on to become Olympians, and that is the goal of Lake Placid."
There is no ESWG fee to spectate, however some of the Olympic venues charge an entry fee. The Family and Friends Olympic Sites Passport includes admission to: Olympic Center (figure skating, hockey), Olympic Jumping Complex (ski jumping) and the Olympic Sports Complex (bobsled, luge). ORDA is providing this special Family and Friends access for just $25.
The Games are expected to cost close to $130,000 to put on this year, McKenna said. That will be paid for using money from participating municipalities, sponsors and registration fees. In the past three years, the event has paid for itself, he said.
Athlete registration will be available starting Nov. 25 on the ESWG website: www.empirestatewintergames.com.