Adirondack Daily Enterprise
AARON CERBONE / Staff Writer
SARANAC LAKE — Eight golden shovels plunged into the dirt in front of the Saranac Lake Civic Center on Monday, held by local and state leaders who gathered to celebrate the start of a $6 million construction project at the ice rink.
The Civic Center is getting a big upgrade before it becomes the site for international curling competition during the 2023 World University Games.
Behind the crowd, the ground was technically already broken. Crews from Luck Builders, of Plattsburgh, started digging the giant pit in front of the Civic Center last month. This will eventually be where the foundation of the building’s new atrium addition will sit.
This first phase of construction will continue through the winter and will focus on improvements other than the rink itself, to avoid disrupting ice time. Construction is expected to finish in November 2022, according to Civic Center Project Director Peter Dimmig.
When Lake Placid won the World University Games bid in 2018, the state Economic Development Council asked if the Civic Center could host curling. It couldn’t at the time, but this construction is meant to bring it up to snuff.
After negotiations with the state, New York offered a 75% matching grant through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
The state has promised $4.5 million toward the $7 million project so the ice skating rink facility can host curling events for the 2023 World University Games, if Civic Center volunteers are able to raise the rest themselves.
Dimmig said they’re already close to meeting the $1.5 million the state has asked them to pitch in. As of Monday, the community has raised $1.35 million, Dimmig said.
The project got an early boost this spring with a $500,000 gift from retired Goldman Sachs partner Barrie Wigmore and his wife Dee Dee, who have a camp here. There have been other big gifts, including $200,000 from Stewart’s Shops in October.
Dimmig said the project has received 94 donations between $100 and $500, 36 between $50 and $100, and 36 donations under $50.
Dimmig said these small donations are the most important ones in his mind. He said it shows community interest in the project, even among those who don’t have much to give. Community members were asked to give as much or as little as they felt like.
Ashley Walden, a retired Olympic luger and the chief operating officer on the WUG’s organizing committee for the 2023 games, said the ice in Saranac Lake is a treasure for the region. Though she lives in Lake Placid, she said she’s at the Saranac Lake Civic Center at least twice a week with her two kids who skate and play hockey.
“I’m just as excited as a community member as I am for the games,” Walden said.
Barbara Rice, a former member of the Franklin County Legislature and state Adirondack Park Agency board who is now Gov. Kathy Hochul’s assistant secretary for economic development, grew up in Saranac Lake and said she was excited to see state investment in a project in her hometown.
She said the international attention to the area which the WUG will bring is big, but for the community, the improvements to the skating rink are a lasting big deal. She said the games made a good “catalyst” for the improvements.
Rice said she grew up skating. She would have joined her school hockey team, but at that time, girls were not allowed to play hockey.
Recently, Pee Wee Hockey Association Inc. transferred ownership of the building to Saranac Lake Civic Center, Inc., a not-for-profit organization.
There will be a mezzanine with box seats, a bigger kitchen and a new ice resurfacer. Currently there are four locker rooms with no bathrooms. The plans show six new locker rooms, four with showers and bathrooms. And the project includes heat upgrades, to keep fans in the stands warm.
The center is currently used around seven months a year. Dimmig said they hope to make it a year-round facility with air conditioning in the summer.