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Reps show interest in NY Winter Olympics

March 2, 2015
By MATTHEW TURNER (mturner@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - A group of Essex County leaders went to Washington last week to rally support for a New York statewide Winter Olympic bid in 2026, and members of Congress have begun to weigh in.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Douglas, Vice Chairman Bill Ferebee and Willsboro Supervisor Shaun Gillilland met with Sen. Chuck Schumer on Wednesday, Feb. 25, and with Rep. Elise Stefanik and a staffer from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's office on Tuesday, Feb. 24.

A report prepared by the county was delivered to the representatives outlines improvements sought for the Olympic venues and what they would cost - information the state Olympic Regional Development Authority has not previously released. Overall, those upgrades and renovations would cost $39.4 million, according to the report.

Article Photos

From left, Willsboro town Supervisor Shaun Gilliland, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee and Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas meet at Stefanik’s office in Washington Feb. 24.
(Photo from Stefanik’s Facebook page)

Douglas and Ferebee said the reaction from the members of Congress was positive.

"It seemed like they were all in favor of the possibility of a statewide Olympic bid," Douglas said. "They'd be supportive and willing to meet to discuss opportunities. They didn't feel it was far fetched."

Schumer said in an emailed statement that he looks forward to participating.

"Lake Placid has twice played host to the world's winter athletes, and I am excited to hear the renewed conversation about bringing the Winter Olympics back to the North Country," Schumer wrote. "I look forward to being a participant in that effort."

Stefanik, who this week delivered a message on the House floor commemorating the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" hockey game, was also supportive.

"I had a great meeting with Randy and Bill and am very supportive of their plans to bring the Olympics back to New York," she wrote in a statement to the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. "Bringing the Olympics back to New York would be another historic opportunity for our state as well as a boon for our state's tourism and economy, and I look forward to helping Randy and Bill in their efforts."

"She was very open to help improve tourism," Ferebee said of Stefanik.

Gillibrand's office did not respond by press time.

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Governor remains quiet

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North Country leaders want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to lead the effort for a statewide Olympic bid; however, the top executive in the state has remained publicly quiet on the subject.

Douglas said he met in person with Cuomo on Jan. 3 at the governor's mansion and discussed an Olympic bid. He later sent Cuomo a letter asking him to meet with North Country and ORDA leaders to discuss the potential for a bid in person, which would include Lake Placid.

The governor's office has not returned several phone or email requests asking if he would attend a meeting to discuss the Olympic bid.

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"Gives us credibility"

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Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said the responses from New York's representatives in Congress are "huge" and "give us credibility."

"I think what you're seeing here is a solid platform of support that started with the grassroots right in the village and goes all the way up to our elected leadership in Congress," he said. "It takes all of that to create a consensus and ask how we go forward and how this works."

After speaking with the federal representatives and their staff members, Douglas said he believes getting funding for Lake Placid's winter sports venues through the federal budget would be tough if it's not attached to a major sporting event like another Olympics.

"An Olympic bid takes on a whole new definition," he said. "So if that's the avenue that gets the funds for the long term, than that's the avenue we want to go to get the funds."

Douglas said North Country leaders are aiming for a 2026 Winter Olympics at the earliest. The 2018 games will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2022 games will be in either Beijing or Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Ferebee said Lake Placid can't afford to host the Olympics by itself, so a regional approach with other New York cities would be more practical.

However, Douglas admitted it might not be practical unless the governor is on board, and so far that is uncertain.

Other Olympic bid chatter has been in the news lately. News reports in Canada were discussing the possibility of Lake Placid partnering with Quebec to host the first ever bi-national Winter Olympic bid. Randall said he received a letter from Quebec's mayor stating they are not considering an Olympic bid at this time. Randall said a bi-national bid had no substance, however he welcomed the attention.

"It's incredibly important we remain relevant in the world and they know we are still a potential site in the future for events like the Olympics," Randall said.

An Olympic bid was not the only reason for Douglas and Ferebee's visit to Washington. Their report also detailed the county's financial needs, which included infrastructure projects like clean drinking water, roads, bridges, dams and broadband. Some of those included $4 million for a sewer replacement in Lake Placid, $670,000 for waste water treatment clarifier improvements in Saranac Lake, $1.2 million to replace the gates at the Wilmington Dam, and $205,000 for Marcy Dam rehabilitation. Others included funding for the Keene Valley Neighborhood House and the AuSable Forks firehouse.

 
 

 

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