By Paul Post | DECEMBER 13, 2022
The largest athletic competition in Lake Placid history has been a dramatic game-changer for a fledgling Glens Falls firm that produced colorful graphics for the event.
It’s one small example of the estimated $4.6 million economic impact the Jan. 12-22 World University Games will have on the North Country, from Clarkson University where some hockey games will be played, to Gore Mountain in North Creek, which is hosting free-style skiing and snowboarding competition.
About 2,500 athletes and coaches from 50 countries will take part, much more than the 1,072 competitors from 37 countries at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
In 2020, Glens Falls-based Sidekick Creative won the contract to produce the Games’ logo.
“That was my custom illustration,” said Will Fowler, co-owner with Kara Greenslade of the five-year-old business. “After that we had a really good working relationship with Adirondack Sports Council and the Games’ organizing committee. They had a lot of marketing needs so we dove right into other stuff.”
Now, every Olympic venue is adorned with big, splashy designs Sidekick Creative produced, which depict the sport taking place there such as hockey and figure skating at the Olympic Center, and biathlon and Nordic skiing at Mt. Van Hoevenberg.
Sidekick Creative created the graphics and partner firms, Adirondack Sign Co. of Saratoga Springs and Bokland Custom Visuals of Albany, printed and installed them.
In addition, Sidekick Creative designed the handsome medals that winning athletes will wear. In the process, the firm has grown from three to five full-time employees, with more hires quite likely.
“We’ve also made connections with a number of other potential clients, so the impact will go far beyond the Games with the networks we’ve built,” Fowler said.
With male and female competitors age 17 to 25, World University Games is the largest winter multi-sport collegiate athletic event anywhere on the globe. This marks the first time the winter Games have been held in the U.S. since 1972 when Lake Placid last hosted them. In 1993, Buffalo played host to the summer edition.
The Lake George Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau said the Games are expected to generate about 3,700 hotel room nights, including some right in Lake George for activity taking place at Gore Mountain.
“It factors in not only athletes, but potential spectators who might be drawn here,” said Amanda Metzger, chamber marketing director. “It is an incredible opportunity to showcase North Creek and Gore and we look forward to welcoming these top athletes and helping spread the word about businesses that are open and all there is to do après-ski.”
The Games coincide with the already busy Martin Luther King Jr. holiday week, when many schools are on winter break.
“It is definitely benefiting the local area, North Creek and surrounding towns,” said Julia Johnson, Gore Mountain marketing director.
All athletes competing at Gore Mountain will be housed and fed at a Lake George lodging establishment, which cannot be named for security reasons, Johnson said.
Tom Wysocki of the Fort William Henry Hotel said it’s hoped the Games will generate more mid-week overnight stays, adding to the brisk weekend business the hotel already gets from Ice Castles, the large wintry attraction that drew tens of thousands of visitors to Lake George last January and February.
Led by ESPN, World University Games will be broadcast to millions of viewers around the planet, which should do a great deal to promote North Country tourism long after athletes go home.
The state has invested $500 million the past few years to upgrade the 43-year-old Olympic venues and bring them up to current international standards. About $80 million was spent at Mt. Van Hoevenberg alone, highlighted by a sparkling new base lodge.
“Lake Placid is making a significant contribution that’s being recognized internationally as a great model and standard for other places in that we generate revenue, jobs and opportunities for people,” said Kris Cheney-Seymour, Mt. Van Hoevenberg manager.
A completely new, environmentally-friendly refrigeration system has been installed at the Olympic Center for its three indoor ice arenas and outdoor speed skating oval. At the Ski Jumping Complex, the landing hill has been modified to accommodate modern jumping techniques and equipment.
Also, a gondola built for the 2000 Winter Goodwill Games has been retrofitted with a new engine and cars, a new chairlift services beginner terrain and new automated tower guns, which adjust based on humidity and temperature conditions, make a great deal more snow, which is critical during this era of climate change marked by volatile weather shifts.
“It’s all part of the lead-up to the World University Games, but something that’s also going to carry on for the skier experience here at least another 20 years,” said Andrew Weibrecht, a two-time Olympic medalist and Lake Placid native.
Only small sections of both Whiteface and Gore mountains will be set aside for racing, meaning daily visitors will still have a full complement of trails to enjoy for skiing and snowboarding. At Gore, only four of its 120 trails will be used for competition, which includes ski- and boardercross, big air, snowboard slalom and slopestyle with rails, jibs and jumps.
“The only difference is that there will be a security checkpoint and some designated parking for athletes,”