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Ski Lines: Goff kept Lake Placid humming, vibrant

Friday, December 21, 2012
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Jim Goff has retired.

Jim who?

Fair question. You see, Goff is one of those people who generally don’t get much recognition. But if it were not for folks like him, not a lot would get done. And what did get done would likely not get done as well.

Since the first days of the Olympic Regional Development Authority in 1982, Goff has been involved with events in Lake Placid, seeing that they came to the village and making sure they ran well once they arrived. Since 1996, he was the events director for ORDA. And keep in mind why ORDA was created by New York state: to market and manage events that would preserve the investment and expand the legacy of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Events are what has kept Lake Placid on the international stage. And until he retired a few weeks ago, Goff is the one who made those events happen.

A slam dunk, you think?

Well, consider Squaw Valley in California, host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. While it is a fine ski area today, almost all evidence of a Winter Olympics is gone, and there has never been a major winter sports event held there in more than 50 years. The hockey rink, site of the first U.S.-beats-the-Russians “Mir­acle on Ice,” is a parking lot now.

Lake Placid, on the other hand, hosts events routinely at contemporary world-class venues. There are two World Cup events scheduled — bobsled and freestyle skiing — this winter, plus the World Luge championships which will be held in February. Add to that a calendar full of alpine and cross country ski races, hockey and figure skating competitions, ski jumping and the all-encompassing Empire State Winter Games, and Goff has been a busy guy. And that is just the winter schedule. Events like the annual Iron Man Competition and canoe and kayak races keep the town popping year round.

“We even ran boxing events at one time,” Goff said. “Mike Tyson fought here four times”.

Goff is a Lake Placid native, having grown up near the Adirondak Loj in the shadow of Mt. Marcy. He earned an engineering degree from Cleveland State University in Ohio before coming back to his hometown, where he found a job writing federal grant applications for the bobsled venue. He was fascinated by the science of scoring sports events. By the late 1970s, he was working for the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee on the timing infrastructure for the 1980 games.

During that period, he worked closely with the Swiss company Heuer and Swiss Timing, and after the Olympics, represented them in selling sports scoreboards up and down the East Coast. When ORDA was created, it represented the opportunity to come back home. Goff was one of the first hires by Ned Harkness, who was brought in by New York state to develop and run the Authority. And Goff has been there ever since.

“During my time, we have probably hosted 120 World Cup and international championship events” said Goff. “But that is only part of it. Counting local and regional competitions, we’ll have more than 60 here just this winter”

The job of events director, it turns out, is hardly one-dimensional.

Said Goff, “The first part is to select the events you want to host. You can do every event in every sport every year. You have to pick and choose, then bid. After you get the event, you must find sponsorship partners, then negotiate contracts, put together a budget and then bring together the team to operate the event.”

“There are issues beyond just the competition. Participants must have housing, equipments often must be shipped and received, those involved must be fed, officials must be recruited, from judges to volunteers who direct traffic in the parking lots. It is a major logistical challenge every time we host.”

Every event-hosting decision goes through a series of checks, said Goff. First and foremost, does it make money for ORDA? That’s important. Does it generate money for the community? What does it do for those in the sport? What does it do for the development of the sport in the country? Finally, is it on television?

“If I could cite any change in sports in recent years, it is the role of television. It is what is driving the bus. If an event is on television, it draws sponsors who are looking for a return on their investments,” he said.

Consider this: If an event is featured on a weekend on network television, the advertising value is calculated at $250,000-$350,000.

According to Goff, the budgeted cost for any World Cup event for starters now is between $65,000-$135,000. That’s what needs to be raised to host an event.

The process can start two years or more before the actual event. Goff would organize a core group of around 20 people, mostly ORDA staff, to make the plan. By the time the competition is near, that core group has expanded to some 150 when officials and coaches and support people are counted.

“But no matter how complex,” he said, “I know the event is going to start as scheduled, whether I am ready or not. It is all a matter of making sure that we are ready.”

Will he miss the pressure?

“What I’ll miss is the energy” said Goff. “You get it from the people involved. And when an event is complete, there is more energy from the people whose event comes next.”

Goff just turned 60 years old, and has finished much of the work on a “green” house he has built in Lake Placid. He has more work to do.

But he is not done with events. Over the years, mainly through his connections with Swiss Timing, he has continued to work on competitions elsewhere, like working on beach volleyball at the Athens Olympics or cycling races throughout the world. Between bidding for events and working with various sports federations, he has made deep connections and traveled extensively throughout the world. He expects to continue at least some of that in the years ahead.

“This has been my vacation for 30 years.”

So maybe you have never heard of Jim Goff. But if you have attended a world event in Lake Placid, or took in a regional competition, or even watched an event from there in the past 30 years, you’ve seen his work.

NEEDHAM will be missed

Dick Needham died last week. Needham worked for Ski Magazine for 22 years, serving as its editor from 1974 until 1994. During that period of great growth of Amer­ican skiing, he called the shots at the largest ski specific magazine in the country and in 1978, he edited Ski Magazine’s Encyclopedia of Skiing published by Harpur and Row.

He also wrote Ski, Fifty Years in North America, a history of the magazine. Perhaps his greatest achievement was to launch and promote the SkiWeee program that raised the standards of ski instruction for children across the country.

From 2000 to 2010, he was the editor of Skiing Heritage, the mag­azine of the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame

Needham was 73.

SPECIAL CHRISTMAS WISHES

Skiing and snowsports have a special relationship with Christmas and the holidays, and it is a time for best wishes to be passed on to all.

This time, let’s make a special bow to Helen Cornwall, now 95 years old and living in North Creek. “Miss Helen” directed the day care center at Gore Mountain from the day the area opened in 1964 to 2000, and over the course of time, cared for up to three generations of some local ski families.

Her warmth and kindness helped grow the sport of skiing in our

region for 35 years.

 
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