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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Empire State Games lose funding and even more

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Empire State Games lose funding and even more

If last week wasn't filled with enough bad news, the press release from tne New York State Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has just crippled the Empire State Games as we know it.

The budget went from 2.7 million to zero for the 2009-10 New York State budget and with it, possibly the games themselves.

The February winter and July summer games will go on as scheduled but "scaled back".

Apparently in the budgetary dictionary, "scaled back" means reducing participation by 2/3rds.

The open and masters divisions competitions have been suspended for the winter and summer games and the scholastic division will now carry a $285 participation fee to cover transportation and meals for the annual four-day event.

The games have always had their detractors arguing that the games don't get the "best athletes" because of competition with showcases, basketball's AAU, baseball, softball, soccer elite summer leagues.

The argument from the staffers in the media room has been, it's free, it's fun and it's a labor of love from the press box.

Now all of that could be gone.

The event reduced the number of participants to 2,500 from 7,500, divided among six regions that's less than 500 athletes from a region, and even less from a local coverage standpoint.

It also reduced the economic impact to Hudson Valley this summer and the Buffalo area next year by 2/3rds. The local organizing committees must be thrilled with the news also.

Adirondack Regional Director Lynn Chabot is hoping for Divine intervention by the legislature to remove or reduce the participation fee. I'm not as hopeful.

Looking at a $15.1 billion deficit, a cool $3 million is at least a start towards its reduction, but at what cost in the long run.

$285 may not seem like a big amount today, but with layoffs being announced daily across the Capital Region and May school budgets facing an uphill battle, most likely to be voted down at record numbers and property taxes expected to rise as school aid reductions in the double-digit amount in May, $285 now may seem like $1 million to families of athletes as the games approach.

Here is my story in this week's Community News.

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