Less than 48 hours after the axe fell on the Empire State Games, our local and regional leaders pulled together and announced the Winter Games would indeed go on. And I for one, couldn’t be prouder to be an Adirondacker.
For more than 30 years, the Empire State Games have enabled athletes of all ages the opportunity to compete in the largest amateur athletic sporting event in North America. For many, the ESG Winter Games have been a stepping stone to World Class and Olympic competition. For others, they’ve provided the opportunity to be scouted for scholarships to higher education. For all, they’ve been a signature event in life.
For Lake Placid, Wilmington and the Adirondack Region, picking up the Empire State Games Torch is the right thing to do because sporting events are embedded in our DNA; it’s what we do best. It would’ve been criminal to let this opportunity slip through our experienced and capable hands, and a terrible disappointment for the athletes.
You see, the beauty of the ESG organization is that it’s largely made up of long-term, dedicated volunteers just like us. From Plattsburgh doctor Merritt Spear’s impressive medical team, to the regional directors and dozens of local coordinators. These are people who believe in the cause and subscribe to ESG founding director Mike Abernethy’s mantra: “It’s all about the athletes.”
Our deepest appreciation goes out to the dedicated ESG staff from New York State Parks. Lord knows how Executive Director Fred Smith, Lisa DelSignore and their skeletal crew managed to keep the games going while constantly being nickeled and dimed to death in funding cuts. Filling the void of their expertise and sheer dedication is going to be tough, but with our combined resources of human capital and facilities, this is doable.
And let’s face reality: the state’s broke, ORDA’s underfunded and our local governments are watching every penny. Hmm... .sounds like 1931 and 1979 all over again, and we know what was achieved back then.
Getting sponsorship is always a challenge, but now unshackled from onerous state agency regulations and burdensome RFP’s (Request for Proposals), there’s a fair shot we’ll gain monetary support for the short term. And my long-term view is positive, because the Empire State Winter Games, while officially an amateur athletic program, is in fact, a valuable sports franchise worthy of a well-planned and well-executed Professional Sports Marketing Strategy. But that’s down the road. Right now we need to pick up the pieces and stage the very best competition we can with what we have to work with.
Will there be challenges coordinating an event of this size on short notice with no money? You bet. Can we overcome them? Absolutely. Because we have the best people on the planet, people who aren’t afraid to team up and go for it. We have visionary, gutsy leaders like Craig Randall, Roby Politi, Jim McKenna, Ted Blazer, and the best “good neighbor” any community could ask for, Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston. They, and their respective boards, are to be saluted for pulling together and taking this unprecedented stand of unity and cooperation to save the Games.
ORDA has demonstrated time and again that our world-class venues stand ready to host the very best competitions. We can do this, and success in this joint venture among our communities and organizations will only lead to greater cooperation and achievement. And when we nail this one, who knows what other opportunities lay ahead as a result of this team effort.
To the naysayers: don’t worry, you’ll find something to complain about, you always do. But remember one thing: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. So step up, or kindly Zip It.
Now that the commitment’s been made, it’s going to take a few weeks for those involved to get their arms around things and come up with a “Games Plan.” So let’s be patient and let the good people of the village, towns, CVB and ORDA do their homework. We’ll know soon enough how we can be of assistance. In the meantime, our collective positive attitude and individual words of encouragement will help set the stage for an outstanding Empire State Winter Games.
Thousands of athletes, families and supporters, not to mention all those future Olympians, are grateful for our strength, teamwork and commitment to save the Empire State Winter Games, and they’re counting on us to continue to do it right. They won’t be disappointed, because this is Lake Placid, USA…. in the Adirondacks… this is what we do best!
I stand ready to volunteer, and I hope you’ll stand with me.
Adirondack native Dennis Ryan is past President of Adirondack Radio, past chairman of the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitor’s Bureau, chairman of the Lake Placid Olympic Flame Tower Restoration Committee, and is the 2010 Lake Placid/North Elba Volunteer of the Year.