LAKE PLACID - Organizers of the Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament, Aug. 4-10, are planning special tributes this coming week to celebrate 25 years in the Olympic Village.
George Leveille and lacrosse buddy Mike DeRossi launched their tournament in August 1990 with seven teams playing 14 games at the North Elba Horse Show Grounds.
"I really didn't know what to expect," Leveille said. "Selfishly, I wanted to play there. I moved to the Albany area in 1975 to go to graduate school, and I found the mountains and Lake Placid in the Adirondacks and kind of fell in love with them. And so the opportunity to play lacrosse there was something that was very appealing to me."
Action from the 2013 Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament
(File photo — Lou Reuter)
Now the tournament has grown into a destination event, marketed to families looking to play lacrosse as part of their summer vacation. This year, there will be 245 teams playing over seven days, and they're using about a dozen playing fields located at the town of North Elba property off Recycle Circle, the horse show grounds and Northwood School.
"I did not expect that it would have the kind of traction that it's had over the years," Leveille said. "It rained that first year quite a bit. ... I worried that no one would ever want to come back, but as it turned out, that was not the case."
When the tournament began, most of the players were in their 20s and 30s. Yet many of them have made the Summit Lacrosse Tournament a tradition, returning to Lake Placid year after year.
"As we aged, we kept creating new age divisions so that you can play with people of comparable age and experience, to the point where we now have 18 divisions," Leveille said. "As part of that, we've built continuity into the event where as the teams aged up, they would move to an older division. ... It creates this family-oriented appeal."
The event's demographics range from high school to masters, boys and girls, men and women. The event will bring in more than 5,000 players, coaches, officials and family members to Lake Placid. Leveille said the 2013 event had an economic impact of $4.2 million in direct spending for the local economy.
Aug. 4 to 6 will feature the scholastic games for boys and girls, and the adults will play Aug. 6-10. With such a broad appeal to players of all ages, Leveille said the tournament has cultivated a reputation in the lacrosse community as one of the nation's leading competitive events and elevated Lake Placid to a popular "Lacrosse Town."
"There's no question," Leveille said. "Certainly externally. I was just at the world championships in Denver, and I saw numerous folks walking around with Lake Placid hats and T-shirts, so there's certainly recognition in the lacrosse community of Lake Placid being a pre-eminent lacrosse spot."
Lake Placid offers teams and their families a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities and historic sites for their vacation that other communities in the U.S. do not.
"It provides a very unique environment for a sport to be played that offers a lot of other things for people to do in a comfortable climate in the summer," Leveille said.
Getting youth involved in lacrosse is an obvious component of the Summit Tournament, which will host a couple of clinics for younger players to learn about the sport. A Dick's Sporting Goods Zone, and dedicated field, will be on site Aug. 4-6. It will operate in conjunction with the scholastic tournament and will feature youth clinics for 8- to 14-year-olds, coaches' talks, skills training, equipment maintenance, and appearances from some of the top players in the country.
As part of the 25th anniversary celebration, the Lake Placid Center for the Arts will present the film, "America's First Game," followed by a lacrosse symposium starting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5. The film, produced by Dennis Deninger, is narrated by Syracuse University alum Mike Tirico of ESPN. The symposium will feature many of the sport's top leaders. Tickets for the film and symposium are $10 for adults and $4 for youth. High school lacrosse teams are invited free of charge if organized through their coaches.
Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse is also partnering with Wounded Warrior Project to raise awareness and funding for its programs.
Tournament organizers will roll out their Legends of Placid Lax tribute to people who have contributed to the event over the past 25 years, recognizing 16 individuals, five teams and a number of all-stars. The class of 2014 will be introduced at Mid's Park on Main Street on Saturday, Aug. 9, in an evening event that is free to the public.
Prior award namesakes named to the Legends of Placid Lax will be former ORDA CEO Ned Harkness; Jim Muhlfelder, who helped launch women's play; Larry Piatelli, a big time college athlete (hockey); Tom Pillsworth, who anchored the tourney staff for many years; traditional player Travis Solomon; and Dan Spillett, for his courage and determination.
New awardees will be player and team organizer Bob DiPuppo; Bucky Hayes, who has anchored the tournament security staff for 24 years; Butch Martin, director of the Town of North Elba Park District; Doug Maynard, a player, coach, organizer who died unexpectedly in 2013; John Morgan, head men's official from 1990 to 2012; the three Powell Brothers, players from Carthage; Jake Reed, player and organizer; Lyn Reitenbach, player and organizer; player Paul Schimoler; and player Arty Waugh, who anchored the Mohawk Lacrosse Club and its successors, including Cloud Splitter, in goal for many years and several championships.
The Silver Anniversary Teams of Distinction recognized for playing at the first tournament will be Sailin Shoe, Cloud Splitter, Graph Tex, Rusty Red and FCA.
There is no admission fee for the lacrosse games.
For more information about the tournament, visit online at www.lakeplacidlax.com.