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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Hudson Valley may cancel summer Empire State Games

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

Hudson Valley may cancel summer Empire State Games

This is the AP story that I came across late Friday night.

I can't say that I'm surprised because of the monies raised by the LOC (local organizing committees) needed to host events like this each year.

When the NYS Dept. of Parks cut the events and divisions, they never did the math about the lack of support the LOCs would get.

POUGHKEEPSIE -- AP -- The Hudson Valley committee scheduled to host this year's Empire State Games said Friday that the events could be canceled because of proposed cutbacks in state funding.

The 2009 Hudson River Valley Empire State Games Local Organizing Committee is unhappy about a proposal requiring high school athletes to pay a participation fee.

The state parks department announced last week that funding for the games will end in the next fiscal year due to the state's huge budget deficit. Starting this year, the agency says participation fees will be set at $285 for the summer games and up to $100 for the winter games. Previously, there was no participation fee.

Some events will also be suspended in this year's winter and summer games, including scholastic boxing, bobsled and skeleton. Senior games and all masters and open competitions will be suspended for the 2009-10 fiscal year, which begins in April.

The organizing committee faxed a letter to parks Commissioner Carol Ash on Friday to inform her of their decision.

"The Hudson River Valley Local Organizing Committee arrived at this regrettable decision based on an overwhelming feeling that the participation fee violates the spirit of the games," wrote Steven Lant, the group's chairman.

Lant also wrote that objections to the fees were so strong among their host site partners, sponsors and volunteers "that maintaining the support necessary for the games has become untenable."

"We just received the letter this morning, we are reviewing it, and we still have not determined our next step," said parks department spokesman Dan Keefe on Friday afternoon.

The Empire State Games began in 1978 and have operated on an annual budget of $3 million, most of it from the state. The 2009 summer games were scheduled to be held at venues throughout Orange, Ulster and Dutchess Counties from July 22-26. The games were linked to celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage.

Click here for my story about the Empire State Games reduction in events and announcement of a participation fee in this week's Community News.

Here is a copy of the letter sent to the Dept. of Parks and Rec from the Newsday site.

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