With the revamped 2011 Empire State Winter Games in the rear view, local leaders are looking ahead to next year with high hopes.
A group of officials hosted a luncheon at Nicola's Restaurant in Lake Placid late last week, where they thanked the various municipalities and private businesses that made this year's games a success.
The games were briefly canceled last November after the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation announced it would not host this year's games due to New York's ongoing fiscal crisis.
Local governments and tourism groups quickly joined forces to save the games, gathering donations from the public and private sectors in order to finance the popular winter event.
Jim McKenna is president and CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau.
McKenna said last Friday that the games had a tremendous economic impact on the Olympic region. He also thanked local and regional media outlets for getting the word out.
"Once we get outside of our local borders here, we're all the same," McKenna said. "Thanks for all of your efforts from the media, because that helped us be successful with the games. And it put us in a pretty good position to try and expand them and grow them in the future, which is our goal."
Jeff Byrne is vice president of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.
Byrne says a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work was necessary to make the games happen.
"We had great cooperation between all of the people who were involved," he said. "And it became a very successful regional event."
According to Byrne, officials are excited at the prospect of making the games bigger and better in the future.
Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said taking over the games from the state was a "no-brainer."
"This is the business this region is in," he said. "There was never a doubt that this wouldn't be carried out with great results - and to use your acronym, Jim, we brought it home to 'ROOST.'"
Joe Lamb, a local businessman who volunteered on the Empire State Winter Games Organizing Committee, said the games represent what can be accomplished when people get together on the local level.
"I think our future is to build-out these games and make them larger than they have been, to take them maybe in a slightly different direction," he said. "In all, we want to present to sport, the physical opportunities for people of varying ages a winter experience of physical health and well-being."
The model established for these games is catching the eye of policy-makers in Albany, too.
State Senator Betty Little says she's already using this year's event as an example of the sort of public-private partnership the state needs in order to get back to fiscal solvency.
According to Little, saving the Empire State Winter Games and making it successful without state funding is promising as lawmakers look for other ways to get creative with next year's budget.
"We need to involve local government whenever we're making any kind of changes at the state and see how, why, and in what way we can work together on things," she said.
Little says the local officials who put together the games deserve a lot of credit for making them happen.
"They're good for our area, but they're also good for the athletes who are proud to compete and proud to be New Yorkers," she said.
Early returns suggest that Senator Little is right when she says the Empire State Winter Games were good for the Olympic region.
According to Kim Rielly of ROOST, the 732 athletes and their guests who stayed in the area for an average of three days generated an economic impact of nearly $484,000. Visiting officials and their guests had an economic impact of more than $61,000.
The total estimated direct expenditures were nearly $578,000, Rielly says.
Overall, Jim McKenna says the games ran in the black this year, which he says is good news as organizers begin looking to next year.