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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 28, 2011

Empire State Winter Games looking to expand without state funding

By Jordan J. Michael

LAKE PLACID –– The Empire State Winter Games had a successful run in 2011 as a community-driven event without any state funding. Now, the Games are charging ahead and looking to expand even further.

The Lake Placid local organizing group has officially scheduled the 2012 Games for Feb. 2 through 5, which is three weeks earlier than its annual dates of the past. James McKenna, chief executive officer of the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, said yesterday that the time change –– several weeks ahead of its traditional schedule –– was the “best window for growth.”

In November, it became clear that the state would not finance the 2011 summer or winter games. The winter games, in their 31st year, went on without the state funding –– backed by a consortium of Adirondack municipalities and agencies along with some local business contributors. The state had spent over $300,000 on the winter games in 2010, in which about 1,000 athletes competed.

Altamont’s Darwin Roosa, the president of New York State Ski Racing Association, said this week that the Games want to “capitalize on the middle of the winter season.” Roosa mentioned that the Lake Placid Loppet cross-country ski race and the Saranac Winter Festival also fall during the first weekend in February.

“Our intent is to grow,” McKenna said. “We want to turn this event into something that will stand out on the national level.”

The Games will follow the new models of the Youth Olympic Games and the Winter X Games. “We want to appeal to a younger audience,” said McKenna. “The direction of the game plan is changing.”

For 2011, the Empire State Winter Games had 13 different sports –– alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, cross-country skiing, figure skating, luge, skeleton, ski jumping, ski orienteering, snowshoe racing, speed skating, woman’s ice hockey, and skier/boarder cross. McKenna told The Enterprise that more sports will be added in a “slow manner.”

“They want greater participation,” said Roosa, who has won many medals at the Games for biathlon. “The community gets an added benefit if more athletes and fans show up.”

McKenna mentioned an interest in more events for the physically challenged and the use of more venues in the Lake Placid area. The Games want to focus on the ideals of sport, education, and culture, he said, so there are plans for educational youth programs during the Games.

All these plans will take a few years to surface, but it’s something to build towards. “Next year will be the biggest challenge,” McKenna said. “If the athletes respond positively, then we’re confident that we can turn this into something new.”

The Games are at the beginning of fund-raising plans for 2012, hoping to gain some corporate sponsorship down the road. If planners have their way, the Games will represent more than a one-week event, promoting healthy lifestyles and youth recreation outdoors.

“We’re trying to go beyond the traditional, while developing strong partnerships,” said McKenna. “The economy is different right now. Sponsorship needs to be a vehicle that really promotes.”

McKenna said that he felt “true excitement” from the athletes this year. The ultimate goal, he said, is getting the Games broadcast on live television. As far as state funding, there’s none planned.

“We’re not looking to the state for anything, really,” McKenna said. “If the state sent us a check, OK, but we’re not asking. We have enough local support.”

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