USA Luge has decided to keep its headquarters in Lake Placid for at least the next five years after the state of New York pledged $6 million to upgrade facilities and market the sport.
Luge is an Olympic sport in which sliders lie on their back on a sled down an iced, banked track at speeds approaching 90 miles per hour. USA Luge has been based in Lake Placid since it was formed in 1979, but this year the association considered moving to Park City, Utah. During its annual meeting earlier this month, the USA Luge Board of Directors voted unanimously to stay in Lake Placid.
Gordy Sheer was an Olympic luge competitor in 1992, 1994 and won silver in 1998. He is now spokesman for USA Luge. “Here in Lake Placid U.S.A Luge has access first of all to an existing start facility which is in need of upgrade. We also have access to the Olympic Training Center and we have a great partnership with the folks at the Olympic Regional Development Authority. Those were you know the existing facilities and the strength in partnerships were really the big, big deciding factors for us.”
In the bid to keep the luge association in Lake Placid, the state committed $5 million for a new state-of-the-art start ramp facility and earmarked another $1 million to support televised events and other marketing efforts. Sheer says that was key to the decision. “Right now we're somewhat hampered by our existing facility. It's too short. So the athletes can't actually do a full start. And we feel that it's important not only to work on that start ramp but also our coaches are working outside building sleds that are winning races, but building them outside underneath a tent. We've kind of outgrown this facility. The influx of funding really showed a huge commitment on the part of the state. And it was really important not only to our ability to train athletes but also host competitions here in Lake Placid. That was a huge factor in our decision to stay.”
Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall says keeping USA Luge in the village was a team effort. “All of Lake Placid came out to support them. Not only the funding, which was critical of course, but also other efforts are underway to expand our footprint as the U.S. training center. And that’s the first time I think that we've in recent years that we've really seen a consolidated effort of all of the different entities that came together to I think encourage luge to want to maintain Lake Placid as their home.”
Randall adds that USA Luge is one of only a few winter sports headquartered in Lake Placid. “Luge is recognized all over the world and to have the luge headquartered in Lake Placid and also have the reputation of having produced a number of very, very successful sliders who have gone on to become Olympians and medalists as well is something that any community would be proud of. But I think Lake Placid given its Olympic legacy and the history of growing Olympians, if you would, for every Winter Olympic event since they began, is something that we are very, very proud of. And as I said it really was a team effort including New York State and I think the governor's announcement of some additional support there was undoubtedly the critical point that we had to achieve in order to keep them here.”
Empire State Development will provide the marketing funds to help USA Luge televise races and promote the sport.