2010-11-24 / Editorial

ESG cancellation triggers greater loss for New York

Bee Editorial
Maybe it’s a good thing Lou Reuter isn’t around to see what a debacle his beloved Empire State Games have become.

The former Western Region Director and youth sports champion died last year, unable to see the games make a triumphant return this past summer in Buffalo following the cancellation of the 2009 event. With word coming out Nov. 16 that the 2011 summer games slated for Rochester will also be cancelled, Reuter would have been incensed. And rightly so.

The Empire State Games are an Olympics-style athletic competition featuring amateur athletes from every region of New York. It serves as a launch pad for high school athletes looking to secure college scholarships and college competitors seeking a path to professional sports or the Olympics. Just ask Town of Tonawanda’s “Baby” Joe Mesi, who won a gold medal at the Empire State Games and went on to become the number-one contender to the World Boxing Association heavyweight title.

We all know the state is hemorrhaging money and faces a $9 billion deficit. Obviously, spending cuts need to be made across the board from every department. But shouldn’t a program that generates huge revenues for the host cities each year earn more consideration than the elimination of all funding? Wouldn’t renting hotel rooms, selling merchandise and serving meals to the 6,000 athletes and their families and friends help stimulate the economy?

The 2010 games in Buffalo turned a profit for the organizing committee and were labeled a great success. Generous sponsorship from First Niagara and other businesses provided the springboard needed to revive the games after they were cancelled the year before due to budget cuts.

The state ponied up $1 million for the games this year, much less than the $2.7 million it funded for the 2008 games in Binghamton. Still the decision from the state came down that all funding for the games would be eliminated, the staff of the Empire State Games office would be laid off or reassigned and the website www.empirestategames.org would be shut down.

This is further evidence that the lawmakers in Albany are so blinded by the crippling combination of corruption and debt they can’t see true value when it drops like a three-pointer in their laps.

Use whatever sports clichĂ© you like — they fumbled the snap, they dropped the baton, they splashed the dive. The legislators missed the boat on the Empire State Games, and now we’re poorer for it.

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