From an e-mail sent by Paul McClintock to former Empire State Games participants:

For people that might not be willing to make a phone call here is a petition to the Governor …. please read and if you agree sign it and pass it on to anyone and everyone. Have family and friends sign as well. When I last checked and signed the count was at 140 and going up about 20 per hour. Thanks

Paul (#130) and Fritzi (#132)

- Original Message -
Sent: Monday, January 12, 2009 9:32 AM

Hi everyone:

Thanks so much for all the supportive messages that you have sent.

Here is the contact address for the Governor's Office and the Commissioners Office:



If you are inclined to comment, please email these officials and express your thoughts regarding the cut backs and elimination of Masters sports (swimming) from the games.

Thanks for your continued efforts.


Governor 518-474-8390

Commissioner 518-474-0443



Syracuse post
10614. Empire State Games

by seciiicom, 1/6/09 17:20 ET

It is with an extreme sense of urgency that I write to you all. Currently, the Empire State Games, the program that began in 1978- the first amateur state games in the country, and a program that includes games for the Physically Challenged, the Senior Games, the Winter Games, and of course, the Summer Games, is in serious jeopardy of drastically changing and, in my opinion, ending. The current proposed budget has quietly included no funding, zero, yet the Parks Dept. has instructed the staff to carry out the games as they see fit. Accordingly, the current contingency plan includes charging fees ($300.00 per athlete in the youth division, previously known as scholastic), eliminating all Open team sports, eliminating transportation and several other sports, and cutting uniform expenditures, to name several proposed changes. I believe these changes will doom the future of the games.

For the summer games alone, the local communities who have hosted the Games, have enjoyed an economic impact of approximately $10-15 million. Over three decades, the Empire State Games have generated more than $350 million and returned more than $15 million in sales tax directly back to the state.

Besides the local economic impact, countless athletes have had scholarship money offered as a direct result of participation in the Empire State Games and participants have represented our country in the Olympics and at the professional level. Local colleges and universities have been able to showcase their campuses. And it goes without saying, in both good and bad economic times, the value of athletics cannot be understated.

I am urging ALL of you to contact your local state senators and assembly persons as well as Governor Patterson's office and the Parks Commissioner. For your convenience I have included links below:

Governor 518-474-8390

Commissioner 518-474-0443




Empire State Games cuts deeper than anticipated
Open, Masters divisions eliminated; Youth division fees enacted [Image: "Ken McMillan"]

By Ken Mcmillan
Times Herald-Record
January 09, 2009

The verdict is in, and the Empire State Games have taken a big hit.

State funding for the program has been discontinued for the 2009-10 fiscal year. As a means to keep the program afloat, participation fees will be used for the first time, and adult competition has been suspended for the 2009 Summer and 2010 Winter Games ? a deeper cut than had been anticipated.

?In a time of unprecedented fiscal crisis, the unfortunate reality is that reductions have to be made across every area of government,? said Carol Ash, commissioner of the state office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. ?We have sought to strike an appropriate balance that allows the Games to continue for high school and physically challenged athletes, while also helping the state address its record $15.4 billion deficit.?

Youth athletes, who formerly competed in a scholastic division, will be charged a participation fee of $285 for the Summer Games and $100 for the Winter Games. The summer fee will cover the cost of transportation, food and lodging. Athletes at the Winter Games have always provided their own food and lodging.

There will be no fee for the Games for the Physically Challenged in May on Long Island and October in Brockport, but competition for athletes aged 5-21 will be streamlined.

Scholastic competition in boxing, fencing and shooting will be done away with for the 2009 Summer Games, scheduled for July 22-26 in Poughkeepsie, New Paltz, Newburgh and nearby locations.

There will be no adult competition in the Open and Masters divisions at the 2009 Summer and 2010 Winter Games, and the annual Senior Games in June have been suspended for 2009.

Suddenly, the atmosphere that was festive at the 2005 Summer Games, the first held in the Mid-Hudson Valley, will be cast with a pall for the downsized 2009 event.

The Summer Games typically draw 7,000 participants ? from athletes to coaches ? and about 10,000 visitors to the host region for five days. The economic impact is estimated between $8-12 million, a figure that would be impossible to reach with the elimination of more than half of the athletes.

?To our way of thinking, we would prefer to have Games, even a reduced Games,? said Denise VanBuren, the public relations chairwoman for the local organizing committee. ?We think that is preferential to having no Games at all. Is it ideal? Absolutely not. Will we be disappointed? Absolutely.?

Despite the parks office announcement, VanBuren did not want to speculate on participation numbers until Smith presents a new business plan to the local organizers at the end of the month.

?We have prepared ourselves for the same magnitude of involvement and engagement that occured here in 2005 ? that was a home run for the region and for the athletes,? VanBuren said. ?Anything diminished as far as participation, that will obviously not be what we had envisioned and hoped for.

?We are all taxpayers and we understand difficult decisions are being made in Albany. We would like to work with (Games executive director Fred Smith's) staff and to give it a fair and honest appraisal.?
Reaction was swift and angry to the participation fees.

"That's absolutely insane," said ESG veteran rifle competitor Jenna Hansen, a freshman at John Jay College who lives in Middletown. "Not everybody can come up with that kind of money."

The concept of "pay for play" is loathed by regional directors Frank Intervallo of the Hudson Valley region and Lou Reuter of the Western region.

"It's horrible," Intervallo said late Thursday, before the Parks announcement on Friday. "I think this is the end of the Games as we know them. I don't think we're going to recover from this. We're going to see only those athletes who can afford to participate, and that?s what the Games are not about."

Critics say charging an exorbitant participation fee is discriminatory because it will turn away credible athletes from low- and some middle-class families that can't afford it.

"I don't know if it's discriminatory or reality, but it does de-legitimize the Games," Intervallo said. "Are we going to sell T-shirts that read, "I bought my way into the Empire State Games?? I hate to think that would be the standard on whether you get into the Games."

Intervallo is not blind to the state's financial difficulty, but he believes there has to be a better way than eliminating all funding.

"We're not insensitive that there are costs and some costs have to be absorbed, but I think it's a terrible decimation of the program," Intervallo said. "There has to be some alternative, some way of finding some money somewhere to support a program that is worthwhile."

"We're not studying cow flatulence," Intervallo said sarcastically, in reference to government-funded university studies.

There will be no changes to the 2009 Winter Games to be held next month in Lake Placid — that event is covered by the 2008-09 budget. It was previously announced that bobsled, luge and skeleton events were suspended due to a conflict with a World Cup event.

Smith said earlier this week there have been minor fiscal cutbacks to keep spending in check.

Ash said the parks agency would pursue private sponsorship of the 2010 Summer Games in Buffalo with the hope of reinstating the suspended competitions, as well as revisiting the new fee structure.

New York State erases Empire State Games funding
The state's budget crisis has dealt a devastating blow to amateur sports in New York, erasing funding for the nation's oldest state-run Olympic-style competition.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation on Friday announced it will no longer fund the annual Empire State Games, dramatically altering the scope of an event that since 1978 has hosted approximately 6,000 youth, open and Masters competitors each summer in sports ranging from track and field, basketball and soccer to gymnastics, cycling and sailing.
State funding had previously accounted for $2.7 million of the annual $3 million budget for the games. As a result, all open and Masters competition has been removed from the schedule. The remaining youth competitors will have to pay a $285 participation fee for the first time. Winter Games competitors will pay a $100 fee.
"Like every other state agency in New York State, Parks has moved forward with a 10 percent reduction in its budget," said Eileen Larrabee of the Parks department. "That for us means about $16.9 million that we had to cut from our operating funds."
"We still have the infrastructure in place to support the games and that will continue," Larrabee added. "We are getting back to the basics just like any other state agency. We have to look at what we do and how we function. We are facing a dire economic situation in this state."
Most summers, about 125 Staten Islanders can be found on ESG rosters. Monsignor Farrell track and field coach Tom Cuffe has been part of the New York City regional staff for 20 years, often doubling up as a coach. Before that he competed in the Games four times.
"I was crestfallen," said Cuffe. "It's like if somebody sweeps the carpet out from underneath your feet. It has the potential to be an athletic tragedy. It serves such a great purpose and it's been a bedrock of a lot of the things that go on throughout the summer in all these sports."
Karen Awad, who has competed in the last 20 ESG shooting competitions, is the winningest athlete in Empires history, with 58 medals, 33 of them gold.
She's been down this road before. Prior to the 2003 Games in Buffalo, shooting was one of several sports eliminated from the Games due to budget concerns. In June of 2003, the sport was reinstated and has continued since. This time, a reprieve for Awad seems unlikely.
[Image] Staten Island Advance/Hilton FloresKaren Awad has won 58 medals, 33 gold, in ESG shooting competition."Very disappointed," said Awad. "This is something that's been going on for 30 something years. I understand there's budget cuts but this has produced so much for the state in sales tax and millions for the areas that hosted the games.
"To cancel the games and charge the kids like this is very sad. I'm sorry to see it come to and end. I've had a great run."
Wagner College basketball player Doug Elwell, a 2005 Monsignor Farrell graduate, has competed every summer since 2002 on New York City's men's scholastic and open basketball teams. During the summer college basketball players are limited to leagues and tournaments sanctioned by the NCAA, and the Empire State Games was one of those.
"I was just talking to people about playing," said Elwell. "We try to get a couple of guys every year that always go so we always have a healthy core. I'm shocked. That's one of the places that I always play during the summer. That's like my league."
New York City regional director Lou Vazquez was informed of pending changes early in the week, including a preliminary plan that would cut several sports entirely, plus some open team competitions such as basketball and soccer, but preserve some open and Masters events in a new Adult Division. The participation fee was included in that plan.
But when the state Parks department issued its release Friday, all adult sports had been eliminated entirely.
"It's a little bit of a shock," said Vazquez. "We all expected some type of budget cuts which I think everybody can adjust to. The fact it was basically a total slash caught everybody off guard. Reading (Friday's) release now that there's no open and Masters competition it's just amazing that something like this would happen. We've been fortunate that for a lot of kids it's been an opportunity for colleges to get a look at them, provide scholarship opportunities and shoot for the Olympics. It was a shock because it was a showcase not only for kids in New York City but the entire state."
Vazquez is also dismayed by the introduction of the participation fee, which he believes will dramatically depress the turnout of athletes.
"I think it's going to devastate New York City," said Vazquez. "I can't speak for other regions."
There's also the worry that a diminished Empire State Games, with participation already cut in half by the elimination of adult competition and with turnout further depressed by participation fees, may eventually be simply cancelled.
"That's our biggest concern," said Vazquez. "You know right off the bat that now that they have to pay the numbers go down. And if the numbers go so low then why are you bothering to have the Games."
"When are the Games over? If this goes through this could be the end of the Games."
On Thursday, Vazquez emailed New York City's regional coaches to inform them of the coming changes and urge them to contact their local politicians in an effort to restore funding for the Games.
"We're just starting to get the word out," said Vazquez. "The coaches will be getting the word out to all of last year's participants. Hopefully there will be enough pressure put on the Governor's office to bring back some type of funding to the Games."
"I think there's a lot of very strong organizers and people at the grass roots that have gotten things done in every region," said Cuffe. "Knowing the people that I've worked with that are so professional in the New York City ranks and the state ranks I think you're going to have a real good braintrust that will get together and find a solution. I think there's enough people that will band together."

Article in Westchester Journal News 1/10

Local athletes were stunned and disappointed yesterday upon hearing the news that all open and masters division events were suspended from the Empire State Games.

Many of them counted on the Games as their only chance for competition, especially during the summer months when college athletes have few options, if any.

Pearl River senior Mike Hickey looked forward to winning gold in the 10-kilometer run - this time in the open division.

"It's really bad. I wanted to go back and try to win the 10K again," the Iona-bound Hickey said. "Now that it's canceled, that's not good at all. I guess you just have to move on, but that whole Empire State Games, with all the open athletes coming together with the scholastic athletes, it was a really great thing."

The Games still exist at the scholastic level, but older competitors - such as Valhalla resident Paul McClintock - couldn't help but sound as if the event had changed, possibly forever.

"It's an enormous disappointment," said McClintock, a masters swimmer who has won 141 medals in 25 Games.

He and his wife also co-chaired masters swimming.

"I've been in contact today with over 100 masters swimmers," he said. "They all ask me the same questions: 'Who can we call? Who can we write to?' And this decision is a blow to the Games themselves."

According to the state parks department, which runs the entire Empire State Games program, there were approximately 2,500 open athletes and 1,100 masters athletes who participated in last year's Games.

Local organizers believed this week that some of those athletes would still have an opportunity to compete. They had been told the cutbacks would eliminate team sports at the open and masters levels (excluding volleyball), but individual events such as track and field and swimming would be spared.

That made yesterday's announcement all the more shocking.

"All masters competitors paid their own way," McClintock said. "We paid an entry fee. We paid if we wanted a uniform. We covered hotels, meals, transportation to and from the Games.

"A lot of athletes really liked the opportunity to go to the opening ceremony and be among the crowd with young people. They loved that Olympic-type atmosphere."

Many believe the Games will adopt a much different feel without adults in competition. Even the scholastic division participants must now pay a $285 fee. Previously, all their costs had been paid for by the state, which, in total, provided $2.7 million of the program's $3 million operating budget.

Alex Venuto, a junior at Ossining, played for the scholastic women's basketball team that won gold last summer. She expects to play again, but she doesn't think everyone will be as fortunate.

"With everything that's going on, and with the problems in other areas of life, some just won't be able to spend money in this one," Venuto said.

To scores of athletes who returned summer after summer, the green and gold of Hudson Valley became a second uniform. Marist senior Ryan Schneider played on the open men's basketball team the last four years and said he'll miss just about everything.

"It's definitely a shame," said Schneider, a Lakeland graduate. "For myself, I really viewed it as an opportunity to represent the Hudson Valley. I got to practice against and play with some of the best players from the area and work on my game against a high level of competition."

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