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It’s time to create a Lake Placid Ambassador program

March 26, 2015
Editorial , Lake Placid News

Over the years, there have been many groups promoting and marketing Lake Placid in the hope of creating a common identity to improve tourism and economic development. Now it's time to get everyone involved.

In his recent guest commentary in this newspaper, Mirror Lake Inn owner Ed Weibrecht was right in saying we need to tout Lake Placid's assets as a "two-time Olympic Village in the heart of the beautiful Adirondacks."

With a 35-year cushion of time since the XIII Olympic Winter Games, it's only natural that our Olympic brand will continue to fade if we don't actively promote it. Many visitors currently recognize the name "Adirondack" over "Lake Placid," but that shouldn't surprise us. After all, the newest generations weren't born to remember 1980, never mind 1932.

What's at stake? A third Winter Olympics, either hosted alone or shared with Quebec or the rest of New York? Possibly. Infrastructure improvements to training venues? Probably.

When Lake Placid hosted the III Olympic Winter Games in 1932, this village was given a gift that countless communities across the nation would kill for. It was given an identity.

Just look at Saranac Lake. Since the Trudeau Sanatorium closed in 1954, Saranac Lake has struggled to find it's own identity. And while its push to reform as an arts community has made significant progress, it is better known to the world as the coldest spot in the U.S., thanks to the Weather Channel.

But Lake Placid is lucky. After 1932, the Olympic venues were used for international and community events, and over a period of time, they began to crumble. Local leaders saw this and figured another Olympics could lead to infrastructure improvements and more venues, and that's exactly what happened. Now we're right back in the same spot.

Look at our history, and you'll see a pattern of ups and downs. We're in a cycle of venue improvement and decay, based on our Olympic past, present and future. And as soon as we accept that, we'll know how to plan for the future. Once the ski jumps are upgraded, we should be thinking about the next phase of improvement because decay will eventually come. And with a 15-year-old sliding track at Mount Van Hoevenberg, there should already be plans for upgrades. After all, the 1980 luge run only lasted 20 years.

We're in a part of the cycle now that requires the community to focus its efforts to reignite the excitement and spread the word about Lake Placid's Olympic heritage to the world. It's the only way we'll get those venue improvements and attract more visitors, which are needed to secure our economic stability.

Lake Placid's identity needs to be branded by area residents to impress upon visitors that it is a quintessential mountain village that hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, the last small-town Olympics in world history.

More importantly, we should be telling everyone that Lake Placid continues to be a key player in the Olympic movement. Lake Placid is the future of the Olympics; the future of the Olympics is Lake Placid. We're one in the same.

We have the spectacular history of the "Miracle on Ice" hockey game, speedskater Eric Heiden's five gold medals and a growing list of hometown heroes. We also have USA Luge, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, the U.S. Olympic Training Center, youth programs, international sporting events, training facilities and the skill set, experience and institutional memory to host bigger international events.

While we have groups already promoting the village and the region - the Olympic Regional Development Office, the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, Lake Placid Business Association, village of Lake Placid, town of North Elba, Essex County and the usual host of community leaders - we also need a grassroots consortium of ambassadors to spread their pride of Lake Placid to current and potential visitors.

We've heard people say, "That's ORDA's job," or "That's ROOST's job." We disagree. Marketing Lake Placid isn't just the job of these entities. It's everyone's responsibility. Every resident is an ambassador.

What role would these ambassadors play in promoting Lake Placid as a world-class destination? Since Lake Placid is great at hospitality, it would be easy to develop a simple welcoming plan.

There could be Lake Placid Ambassador packets for current and potential visitors with pins, guides, postcards, etc. When a resident goes away for vacation and someone asks, "Where do you live?" You can say, "Lake Placid," and hand them a pin. You don't think they'll be curious? Sure they will. They'll ask questions and Google "Lake Placid" to learn more. And when people visit Lake Placid, ambassadors could hand them pins and say, "Welcome to Lake Placid." That's the kind of hospitality that made this community great, and it will feed the best marketing tool around, word of mouth.

The ambassador packet could also include a list of three to five talking points so we're all communicating the same message. There could be suggestions about how to reach outside the area using social media. There could be more lodging packages with tours of Olympic venues, museums, history lectures, competitions and events, all to promote our Olympic heritage and future.

The results of a recent survey by ROOST and the Lake Placid Business Association concluded that area residents are an important ingredient to the success of local businesses. This is an opportunity for everyone to get involved - residents who believe that Lake Placid is a premier destination because of its iconic Winter Olympic history, present venues and as a potential host for a future Olympic Winter Games.

Do you think an ambassador club could help promote the Olympic brand of Lake Placid? Are you interested in participating in a grassroots group to encourage and excite the world about Lake Placid?

Send us your comments. We'd like to know.



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