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GUEST COMMENTARY: Some Oval ‘facts’

October 22, 2010
Lake Placid News
While there are some good facts in your recent editorial, “A lease and a foot in the door,” that was published on Oct 8, we need to clarify some other facts.

First, here is the essence of our proposal.

Peak Edge Performance would pay to the Olympic Regional Development Authority all costs for utilities and $4,000 per month rent (or 10 percent of the gross public gate).

In return, ORDA would give exclusive use of the Oval, the building and its equipment, the required refrigeration and use of the ice-maintenance equipment to Peak Edge Performance during the term of the lease. As part of the deal, we would coordinate with ORDA events and prior contracts (e.g. North Elba, school district, etc).

The suggested term of the lease would be four years, as you mentioned, and from November through March. The reason for a longer lease would be in order to secure competition events where bids are normally secured anywhere from two to four years.

Our proposal to ORDA was solicited. We have been solicited by the skaters (and many New York state taxpayers/voters) of the facility for the past decade.

Your editorial seems to suggest that our reason for proposing a lease of the Oval now is that we (et al.) believe that ORDA may cut the Oval’s operational hours in the future. Actually ORDA has been cutting back operational hours at the Oval for about 20 years (as documented in our proposal). There is now less than half as much skating at the Oval as there was 20 years ago. So cutting skating is nothing new to ORDA, but the amount of available skating, and especially speed skating, has been in critical mode now for about five years.

A drastic consequence of ORDA’s reduction of skating availability on the Oval has been the decimation of long track speed skating development in the entire east coast of America. Indeed, US Speed Skating is completely behind our effort (in fact any effort) to increase skating availability at the Olympic Oval.

Our reason for a lease is clear — “MORE SKATING ON THE OVAL.”

You state that “it’s unreasonable to expect ORDA to give up the reins of a venue they have run for decades...” and that the “Oval continue(s) to flourish…”

Well for anyone that tries to use the Oval regularly, they recognize that ORDA management has been opening the Oval less and less. ORDA’s varied reasons for this include refrigeration cost and the “inclement weather,” which have been the most frequent. While these excuses have been clearly dispelled now as myth (as you mention, ORDA now says the Oval makes money!), it appears that we finally have ORDA’s grand reason: ORDA does not want to relinquish control of a facility that it does not want to operate at the facility’s full (or even semi-full) potential.

But would ORDA be losing total control of the Oval anyway and is the Oval an ORDA venue? ORDA is the owner of the operational equipment (but not the land). ORDA has stated on numerous occasions that the Oval is an ORDA venue. ORDA sometimes states that it is a “core venue.” But is a core venue closed for almost half the season, and often at random times throughout the season? Does the Oval have a separate venue manager or budget? The answer to these questions is resoundingly “No”!

Most refrigerated outdoor ovals (and yes ORDA’s Oval is refrigerated) and ice rinks, often operate in warmer climates and with much higher utility rates. These facilities open in October or November and not the week before Christmas!

But why not relinquish control? A great reason for ORDA to relinquish control would be increasing skating hours by more than four times at no cost to the New York state taxpayer. As a matter of fact we estimate that, at a minimum, the annual value of our lease would be more than $70,000 saving to ORDA (a.k.a. New York state taxpayer). ORDA could also use that amount to help pay for losses at the other venues.

Why not accept ORDA’s offer of “renting the ice on the Tuesdays and Wednesdays” when the Oval is now closed? Besides being a very poor business decision to rent the Oval mid-week during the winter — what would be the purpose? As you state, we already have the experience.

ORDA already knows us, as we already rent the ice at the Olympic Center weekly year round and, since 1996, we have had multiple multi-year contracts with ORDA running portions of its Olympic Center programming.

So is the real reason for rejecting our proposal that we may do a better job at the OVAL than ORDA is doing now? If we did do a better job, great for skaters, great for the town, great for us; great for ORDA!

Patrick Kelly, MBA, BEng, Olympian,

North Elba resident, New York state taxpayer/voter

President Peak Edge Performance, Inc.

Fact Box

Want to read Lake Placid News stories and commentary as soon as they are printed? Subscribe to the LPN by calling 518-891-2600. This commentary first appeared in the Oct. 15 issue of the LPN.



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