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Lake Placid officials travel to Lithuania to secure kids' games

July 7, 2017
By ANTONIO OLIVERO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - In the wake of a multi-day visit to this region that was lauded by World University Games officials, local leaders are ratcheting up their pursuit of the two other world winter sporting events they'd like to bring here in 2019 and 2021.

Jim McKenna, CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, and Jeff Byrne, executive vice president of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, are wrapping up a trip to Lithuania after presenting an official bid to International Children's Games officials on the eve of July 4 to host the 2019 event.

Before he and Byrne left on Saturday, July 1, McKenna said they would know by the time they returned if a 2019 Lake Placid-centered Adirondack children's games was selected. McKenna said the games would take place Jan. 6-11 2019, consisting of roughly 1,000 athletes aged 12 to 15 years old from 40 to 50 nations. If Lake Placid is successful in winning the event, McKenna said the area has proven it can accommodate its number of athletes after 2,300 athletes took part in this February's Empire State Winter Games.

Article Photos

Milan Augustin of Slovakia, director of the International University Sport Federation’s Winter Universiade, speaks to a Lake Placid contingent at a reception at Heaven Hill Farm on June 21 as part of a multi-day tour of Lake Placid and the surrounding area. Also pictured, from left, are Lake Placid Deputy Mayor Art Devlin, North Elba Town Councilman Jay Rand, Winter Universiade Executive Assistant Jiho Kim of South Korea and Clarkson University Vice President of External Relations Kelly Ogden-Chezum.
(News photo — Antonio Olivero)

The village has officially signed off on a "Letter of Interest" to trigger a formal bidding process for the 2021 Special Olympics World Winter Games.

The 2021 event would be the largest of the three events in five years local leaders are hoping to bring to the area: the 2019 children's games, a 2021 Special Olympics and the World Winter Universiade in 2023.

The formal letter of interest means the Special Olympics will distribute bid materials in the middle of this month to the hopeful Adirondack contingent. Then, from July 15 through Dec. 1, a Lake Placid-centered Adirondack organizing committee will compile its bid, to be submitted on Dec. 15.

Special Olympics site visits to the region would take place in January and/or February of next year before a March 18 evaluation report would be filed. The Adirondack contingent would then make a final games presentation to the Special Olympics' Board of Directors in April 2018, at which time a host city will be selected.

Considering the size and scope of the Special Olympics - including increased media coverage such as ESPN - McKenna stressed that it would have to be a region-wide event to make it possible

"They have a lot of indoor events," McKenna said. "Floor hockey, et cetera - we would have to engage the surrounding facilities."

The Special Olympics would include around 2,300 athletes - the same as this year's Empire State Winter Games - aged 15 to 70 years old who have intellectual disabilities. One hundred and six countries were represented at the event in Austria this year.

McKenna also said the Special Olympics would involve an athlete's visitation program before the event that would be initiated by Lions Club International.

"We envision (we'd) get the whole state engaged through the Lions Club International hosting athletes," he said.

The ROOST CEO also emphasized that the Special Olympics would be the lead event in helping to invigorate investment in regional housing and hospitality infrastructure.

"Such as issues of employee housing can start being addressed," McKenna said, "engage different folks.

McKenna and Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall once again described their vision as "packaging" the successful bidding of several world events as a catalyst for state investment. But McKenna said the efforts of the local organizing committee would be more important to entice corporate investment in Lake Placid's facilities and the events.

"We are going to have to bring in some expertise when we look at global sponsorship stuff," McKenna said. "That's where we are going to have to bring in some pros as we move this."

While he asked the Lake Placid board of trustees to approve the Special Olympics letter of interest, McKenna also relayed to the board that a core focus of pursuing the events is to receive enough of an investment to make Lake Placid's venues "economically sustainable." In making this point, he mentioned how The Wild Walk in Tupper Lake now averages 150,000 visitors annually compared to, say, 60,000 at the Olympic Ski Jumps.

In response, Lake Placid Deputy Mayor Art Devlin asked if there is anything being done currently to make the ski jumps more "economically sustainable." McKenna didn't provide details, but he said initial plans are in the works to conceive "a plan (that) might not be ski jump focused, something surrounding it generating visits and dollars.

"Developing things that are unique to our area that might have sports in it, but not the types of things that you see in other resorts. So it's got something that has an ability to be a real attractor over and above the sports things, and by generating more revenues with things like that, they have the long term money to keep the sports facilities up to place. That's the challenge. They're athletic facilities and not tourism facilities."

McKenna also stressed that the Adirondack contingent's bid process for these games is not coming out of existing budgets, rather pooled money the organizing committee has compiled. Randall said the village and town of North Elba has contributed $25,000 each of the $200,000 compiled this year, including a $50,000 contribution from the Uihlein Foundation.

McKenna also said the committee would budget an independent cost-benefit analysis before the end of the year that would dictate whether increased funding for the events is worth it.



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