The Empire State Winter Games begin February 1. Three days earlier, a torch run will begin in Manhattan. That is just one of the changes organizers outlined today in Lake Placid, which will host the competition.
Organizers expect 2,500 athletes and more than 5,000 family members to attend the 38th Empire State Winter Games in February. Games Executive Director Tait Wardlaw said this year's sports are not changing.
“For 2018 the sporting events are evolutionary," Wardlaw said. "In other words, there are no completely new sports, but what participants will see this year is that all of the courses are a little bit better. And so what they’ll see is an evolution of the quality of the sporting experience.”
Organizers are hoping to attract visitors other than the athletes involved in the games.
During the formal announcement, Wardlaw explained that they want to create a greater festival atmosphere and bring an Olympic-level of pageantry to the games.
“We’ve committed to building a massive festival village right at the bottom of this hill that will include things like a zip line and speed tubing and other fun activities that will literally start from up this hill and go down over massive snow features and end up in that village," he said. "We’ll conduct a first-ever torch relay from Manhattan up the 335 miles to Lake Placid for the three and a half days prior to the opening ceremony of the games. We’re also enhancing the opening ceremony for this year.”
The games stopped being funded by the State of New York in 2010. It became a cooperative effort that is now primarily funded by private companies.
Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna said this year marks the games’ third transition.
“First it was run by New York State Parks and Recs, then Governor Patterson decided to eliminate the Empire State Games," McKenna said. "The region came together to move it forward and it was being run and operated by a non-profit at that time. This year we’re making a significant change and an events work is taking over the program. That’s the vehicle it needs to get it to the next level. The goal here is to not only add to the economic vitality, but add to something that can continue to grow.”
Empire State Development I Love NY Vice President Ross Levi said events like the Empire State Winter Games are vital for tourism, the state’s fourth-largest industry.
“So the Empire State Winter Games we’re associated with because we’re excited about the potential it has to bring more attention to this amazing region and all the great things there are to see and do," Levi said. "So even though people are coming here in the winter, we know that when they see this great area they’re going to think about coming back for the summer. We know it’s going to be successful in bringing attention to this great region.”
The 2018 games will feature 30 individual events within 19 sports disciplines. There are also five adaptive sports categories.