The 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team pulled off a miracle in Lake Placid.
You know what else would be a miracle? If the state directed our precious tax dollars where they’re most needed, rather than overspending on nostalgia and unnecessarily elaborate tourism projects. That would be a miracle.
The state’s Olympic Regional Development Authority this week authorized $100 million in improvements to the old Olympic Center and speed-skating oval in Lake Placid, home of the 1980 and 1932 Winter Olympic Games.
Lake Placid certainly is a prominent tourist destination, sports venue and training area for athletes. And the Olympic facilities should be maintained so the facilities can continue to generate revenue to support the local economy.
But spending $100 million of taxpayer money to refurbish existing sports venues in one tiny corner of the state, when so many other needs in the region and around New York are going unmet?
That’s no miracle. It’s irresponsible.
While Lake Placid does host sporting events and training, it will never host another Olympics and no longer needs top-of-the-line, state-funded facilities.
Rather, with the growing popularity of hiking and other outdoor activities in the Adirondacks, the state desperately needs many more park rangers to ensure a safe outdoor experience and to perform rescues of injured and lost hikers.
Wouldn’t it be a better use of tax dollars to beef up their numbers rather than to buy a new video scoreboard for the old Olympic ice rink?
Throughout the Adirondacks, state camping areas have fallen into disrepair and neglect. And many hiking trails that draw so many tourists are suffering from overuse. They need to be repaired and maintained in order to ensure public safety and to protect the environment.
How about spending some of that Olympic money on those needs rather than on a new spectator tunnel for the speed-skating oval?
While Lake Placid gets a new parking garage, the village of Lake George needs a new $25 million wastewater treatment plant to keep pollutants from spoiling the lake’s pristine waters.
Lake George is the epicenter for $2 billion in annual tourism revenue. Yet if the state and federal governments don’t pony up the money for the plant, local taxpayers will be forced to carry the financial burden for the entire region.
We’ve often accused the state of having its priorities askew when it comes to economic development.
Putting $100 million into Lake Placid while other vital resources are neglected is just another an Olympic-size state misappropriation of taxpayer money.