Weekly Feature

2010-11-24 / Front Page

Winter Empire State Games are back on

Future of the Olympic-style event in limbo
by DARLENE M. DONOHUE Ken-Ton Editor

The flame hasn’t gone out quite yet for those looking to participate in the winter games hosted each year in Lake Placid.

(See editorial on page four)

As of Thursday, it was reported that the 2011 Winter Empire State Games will be held as planned.

Doug Ames, the Western Region director of the Games, told The Bee on Thursday that the Olympic Development Committee and the Village of Lake Placid are going to foot the bill to host the Olympic-style competition.

Roby Politi, supervisor of North Elba, which is south of Lake Placid, said “Our feeling is if the state can’t do it, we can. We have the community spirit and the volunteers.”

The news came just two days after state officials announced budget cuts at the Department of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation, which organizes the games.

The action, which is part of the state’s budget crunch, would force the cancellation of the 2011 games, which the state has hosted for more than 30 years. The only time it was canceled previously was in 2009.

Ames and Ralph Galanti, chairman of the 2010 Summer Games in Buffalo, voiced mixed emotions when discussing all that has recently transpired in regard to the games.

They were both saddened and outraged by the news that the games would be dropped from the budget. However, they were both pleased with the efforts displayed by the Adirondack region’s efforts to fund the games.

Still, the pair didn’t share the same enthusiasm as the Lake Placid officials when the announcement was made that the winter games would be held after all.

“I applaud their efforts, but they need the state’s support. I would be more excited if their news was coming from state officials,” said Galanti.

He further explained that the state is the foundation of the games and the keyholder of all the materials needed for the games to function properly.

“The state has the means to contact everyone that needs to be involved. They also handle all the promotions for the games,” he said. “Without that, the event will simply be a watered-down version of the games,” said Galanti.

Ames agreed, adding that a “Christmas miracle” is needed for the games to be showcased the way they have been in years past.

“It takes a [heck] of a lot work to pull something like this off,” he said. “It’s sad, because the Empire State Games’ organizers presented a number of ways that the state can host the games.”

New York’s Division of Budget officials say canceling the 2011 Games will save the state approximately $2.8 million, which doesn’t include the savings from staff cuts at the Department of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation.

Fred Smith, now former director of the Empire State Games, will serve as an adviser to those organizing the sporting event in Lake Placid.

Ames and Galanti both said it is their hope that the state’s new administration, when it takes over in January, will rethink supporting the games.

“It’s a worthy event to support. It brings in money for the community that hosts it, and it’s a great way for the athletes to showcase their talents,” said Ames, noting that nearly 900 Western New Yorkers participate in the Summer Games and approximately 100 compete in the Winter Games. “The Western Region is huge, and the Empire State Games are a big deal. In September, we had already started receiving applications for hockey.”

Galanti added that the state’s future administration — Governor elect Andrew Cuomo — should work with corporations to help fund the games, similar to how the summer games in Buffalo were partially sponsored by First Niagara Bank.

“If [Andrew] Cuomo is able to work with big businesses to fund the games, everyone will win,” he said.

Rochester estimates that the Summer Games will cost around $1.5 million to put on and add at least $10 million to the local economy.

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