Questions aired on University Games

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID — The Adirondack North Country Global Sports Committee held an open meeting Monday to explain and answer questions about its plans to submit a bid to the International University Sports Federation (FISU) to have the 2023 Winter World University Games here. More than 60 people attended the forum held at the Conference Center.

The committee has raised $247,500 from nine entities to pay the FISU bidding fee and extra expenses that go along with the process such as consulting payments, travel costs and the production of the 200-page bid dossier itself.

The nine entities that donated to the total are the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, the Olympic Regional Development Authority, the village of Lake Placid, the town of North Elba, a grant through the town of North Elba, Essex County, the town of Wilmington, the Adirondack Foundation and the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.

The bid dossier will include information on Lake Placid’s athletic facilities as well as a list of supporters such as state Sen. Betty Little, Plattsburgh International Airport and U.S. Figure Skating, among many others. Darcy Norfolk, the bid director, said about one-fifth of the dossier will be a list of supporters.

Norfolk summarized the committee’s bid timeline. First the committee will submit the bid by Dec. 31. Then FISU officials will survey Lake Placid and its facilities to see if it’s the right location for the event, and finally in March, the committee will present to FISU why Lake Placid should host the 2023 games.

From left, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO James McKenna, Olympic Regional Development Authority CEO Mike Pratt, Wilmington town Supervisor Randy Preston, Adirondack Park Agency Commissioner Art Lussi, Bid Director Darcy Norfolk, North Elba town Supervisor Roby Politi, North Elba Councilman Jay Rand, Athlete Minder CEO Mara Smith and village of Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall gather Monday in the Conference Center at Lake Placid to address public concerns with the Adirondack North County Global Sports Committee’s upcoming bid to host the Winter World University Games. (Enterprise photo — Griffin Kelly)

Much was said in the two hours the meeting took, but Roost CEO James McKenna said the main purpose of hosting the games is to create a legacy that will advance the needs of the community and its sports facilities.

He said if Lake Placid is selected by FISU and supported financially by the state, then many sites such as the ski jumps and hockey rinks can be renovated.

Town of North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi later said that if the committee did not get enough financial support from the state, it would decline to host the games.

“Without a financial commitment, we’re not going to sign anything,” he said.

The committee is currently just focusing on the bidding process, so many questions people asked were met with speculation and possibilities.

Charles Walsh, who expressed concerns over the University Games in recent letters to the editor of the Enterprise, asked who was going to sign the contract with FISU if everything is finalized. McKenna said they don’t have that information right now because that’s how FISU operates. Walsh called the whole idea to host the games “bogus” and said it’s unnecessary because Lake Placid is already a thriving village. He said he thinks money should be going toward the village and not a sport event.

Brian Barrett, a recent candidate for town of North Elba supervisor, said not everyone who comes to Lake Placid is going to go off the ski jumps, but everyone is going to walk down Main Street, which is where he think efforts should be focused.

Earlier in the night McKenna had mentioned that an event like the University Games will help with Lake Placid’s infrastructure and other community needs.

He later added “different from a one-sport event, [the University Games] gives us the ability to look at long-term housing for the community. It gets us to look at the parking difficulties that this area has, the transportation flow issues, as well as the sports venues and how we can make them more economically sustainable.”

Barrett then asked about the location of a proposed athletes village.

McKenna said “one is close” but didn’t provide any specifics.

Barrett also brought up the figure of $30 million to pay for the event. McKenna said that number was operational funding pulled from previous host cities but doesn’t entirely reflect Lake Placid.

“Other cities don’t have an ORDA that has existing staff,” McKenna said, “but we haven’t gotten to the point of finalizing, and I don’t think that’s going to be done till January.

The question of volunteers and who’s going to work the event popped up multiple times throughout the meeting. Norfolk said the committee is already in preliminary talks with Clarkson University, Plattsburgh State and Paul Smith’s about having college students volunteer.

The director of volunteers for the 1980 Winter Olympics, Georgia Jones, said there is plenty of planning that goes into an event of this size such as transportation, medical crews, food, housing, uniforms and just having people who can give directions in case an athlete or guest is lost.

“These are the things you have to consider years before the events,” Jones said.

She said she remembers conducting more than 6,000 interviews for Olympic volunteers and by the time the games started, there was barely any room for the workers to live and sleep.

“People were packed in nose to nose and toes to toes,” Jones said.

Art Lussi, operator of the Crowne Plaza hotel and member of the Global Sports Committee, later suggested that if the volunteers were college students, they wouldn’t need housing and could be transported to and from the events each day.

McKenna brought up that residents shouldn’t confuse the World University Games with the Olympics. Multiple committee members agreed and said the games wouldn’t have a rambunctious national draw but would be lucrative to broadcast internationally.

“Other events that happen in the area, like lacrosse and Ironman and things like that, they don’t have this international appeal,” McKenna said, “and I think it will lead to some real spirit and excitement for the region.”

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