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Designs for 2 sliding sports start ramps in the works
May 11, 2018

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LAKE PLACID - If the state Olympic Regional Development Authority gets approval and finds the money, this village will have two start ramp facilities for its Olympic sliding sports instead of a combined one, which was originally proposed.

On Thursday, the state Adirondack Park Agency was considering the approval of an amendment to the 1986 Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg Unit Management Plan. The document, issued by ORDA, included a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement. It also included the construction of a sliding sports start facility next to the combined track for luge, bobsled and skeleton.

But USA Luge will build its own start ramp at its Church Street headquarters, not at Mount Van Hoevenberg, according to CEO Jim Leahy. In an April interview, he declined to comment on why the organization changed location, only saying that plans are being finalized for the Church Street start ramp and they would break ground in the fall. A phone call this week for an update was not returned by deadline.

The state money goes directly to ORDA to facilitate the funding for construction and development of the USA Luge start facility. On April 20, ORDA communication director Jon Lundin said ORDA employees were working closely with USA Luge to keep those designs going.

"We have designs that meet their needs and meet the needs of ORDA as well," Lundin said. "It's a big part of why USA Luge stayed in Lake Placid during their RFP process and we still take a lot of pride in the fact that USA Luge calls Lake Placid home and that we have one of the best training and track facilities anywhere worldwide."

Two years ago, the USA Luge Board of Directors decided to keep the organization in Lake Placid at least for another five years, through 2021. The decision came after a year-long process in which the board asked for requests for proposals from cities that would like to house the USA luge headquarters. If another city was successful, it would have meant USA Luge moving its headquarters out of Lake Placid, where it has been since the organization was founded in 1979. Only Lake Placid and Park City, Utah - the two places in the U.S. that have Olympic-style sliding tracks - were interested.

USA Luge officials cited the need for upgrades to its headquarters, built in 1991, as the main reason for considering a move. Its start ramp currently is not long enough to properly train its athletes, and there is a need for extra space to house technical rooms to assemble sleds. Most of the sled work is currently completed outdoors under a tent.

Yet the state of New York came through. Just before USA Luge made its decision in May 2016 to stay in Lake Placid, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had pledged $5 million for a new start ramp facility, plus $1 million in marketing dollars over five years.

At the time, all the stakeholders - USA Luge, ORDA and USA Bobsled and Skeleton (also based in Lake Placid) - were considering a combined start ramp facility.

An architectural design was drawn up in September 2017 and is included in the Olympic Sports Complex UMP amendment proposal the APA was considering.

At 502 feet long and 43 feet wide, the proposed sliding sports start facility at Mount Van Hoevenberg would be constructed just to the north of the former and current bobsled tracks, and it would be connected to the existing sled shed building to the east. The facility was to include two refrigerated luge start runs, one refrigerated bobsled start run, a 45-meter sprint track and observation platforms. But luge is now out of that design.

ORDA still plans on going forward with its sliding sports start facility, according to Lundin.

"The facility at USA Luge does not satisfy all stakeholders needs," Lundin wrote in an email on Tuesday, May 8. By stakeholders, he means USA Bobsled and Skeleton, he clarified in a subsequent email.

USA Bobsled & Skeleton Marketing and Communications Director Amanda Bird referred questions about the start facility to ORDA officials.

The cost of the originally proposed sliding sports start facility and Mount Van Hoevenberg was $13.5 million, according to Lundin, who said ORDA is currently working with a $3.5 million price tag for the USA Luge start ramp. No cost estimate was available for a bobsled/skeleton start facility, and it's not clear where ORDA would get the funds to build it.

"The proposed start facility for Mt. Van Hoevenberg is still in the UMP process," Lundin wrote in an email. "We are still investigating design and cost. This will be a little clearer during Thursday's APA public forum in Ray Brook."

In addition to the USA Luge headquarters and Mount Van Hoevenberg, ORDA had also considered the Olympic Jumping Complex as a possible location for a combined sliding sports start facility.

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