LAKE PLACID — The Olympic Center and speed-skating oval at the heart of this resort village will be seeing their most significant modernization since before the historic 1980 Winter Olympics.
The state’s Olympic Regional Development Authority’s board of directors voted Monday to move ahead with upgrades to both that are expected to cost close to $100 million. The vote was to allow development of the detailed architectural plans needed to apply for building permits and seek construction contracts on what will be a three-year project.
“This historic building is 42 years old and these modernization projects have the chance to define the Lake Placid experience for the next 30 years,” ORDA President and CEO Mike Pratt said.
Officials hope to start work in November, with the goal of completing the work in 2022. The 2023 Winter World University Games are scheduled there in 2023.
The current state budget includes about $70 million for ORDA capital projects, including some of the work at the Olympic Center.
The Olympic Center and speed-skating oval were the site of major events at the 1980 Olympics, including the celebrated “Miracle on Ice” USA victory over Russia in hockey. Some of the facility dates to the previous Lake Placid Olympics in 1932. They remain in athletic use.
While there is no immediate prospect of the Winter Olympics returning the Lake Placid, the facilities continue to be used for Olympic training and other competitions, and the Winter World University Games are expected to be a major event.
Modernization projects under consideration include expansion of the USA Rink from an NHL to an Olympic-size skating surface, new retractable seating and hospitality rooms around the rink, increased access to food service and concessions and new hospitality services at the Herb Brooks Arena, locker room improvements, expanded retail, and an expanded Lake Placid Olympic Museum.
Projects already underway include installing new LED lighting in the Herb Brooks 1980 Arena, replacing spectator seating there, and installing a new video scoreboard.
Pratt said the OIympic Center will remain open during the renovations for events including hockey and figure skating camps, skating shows, high school hockey, public skating and the ECAC Mens Ice Hockey Championship Tournament.
With the local economy reliant on the visitors the Olympic Center brings, local officials praised the planned investment.
“This is improvement of what is really the hub of all the activity here, said James McKenna, president of the Adirondack North Country Sports Council and CEO of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. “I think it’s going to be something where when we are all gone that it’s going to be maintaining the legacy and vision going back to the early 1900s, so thank you very much.”
“Sports and tourism are the major industries for Lake Placid and the region,” said Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall. “The investments being proposed for our recreation facilities are fully supported by the guests and spectators coming to the area. Additionally, we are confident that this activity will spur additional private investment in lodging properties.”
ORDA manages the Lake Placid Olympic facilities, the Olympic ski jumping complex, the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic Sports Complex, and the state ski areas at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, Gore Mountain in North Creek, and Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills.