ORDA revises budget
Less state aid, more revenue from USOC and ski passes
By CHRIS KNIGHT, Enterprise Senior Staff Writer
POSTED: October 4, 2010
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LAKE PLACID - The state Olympic Regional Development Authority has revised its budget to reflect a cut in the authority's allocation from the state.
ORDA is expecting to receive $4.4 million from the state in fiscal year 2010-11, a reduction of more than $2 million from its appropriation last year.
ORDA President and CEO Ted Blazer said last week that the authority has already made cuts and has seen increased revenue that will make up half of the state reduction. To date, ORDA's payroll is down $353,000 and non-personal spending is down $214,000. A new contract with the U.S. Olympic Committee, which leases the Olympic Training Center from ORDA, and increased summer revenue have provided $431,000. Season pass sales at Whiteface Mountain and Gore Mountain ski centers are up $30,000.
"Right now our scorecard says we're doing good compared to last year," Blazer told ORDA's Board of Directors. "We're $1,028,000 dollars better."
Over the next six months, Blazer said ORDA expects to keep its payroll down and further reduce its expenses. He also said ORDA is working to boost revenue during the approaching winter season.
"That's where we move into marketing, programming and pricing strategies," Blazer said.
ORDA has raised the price of lift tickets at its two ski areas by 3 percent, which will provide a projected $540,000 increase in revenue. Charging skiers who are 70 years and older, who used to pay nothing, will add another $200,000 in revenue, Blazer said. Increased pricing for off-slope activities and other programs is expected to boost receipts by another $100,000.
Based on marketing and past performance, Blazer said ORDA is also hoping to increase skier visits at Whiteface and Gore by 2,500 each, which will provide another $250,000 in revenue.
Using those revised numbers, Blazer said ORDA will increase revenue over the next six months by $1,090,000, make its budget and be $154,000 in the black.
"This relies a lot on what we've already accomplished to date, which is a lot," Blazer said. "We've saved money, and we've earned more money. We've got that same philosophy going into the winter."
The only downfall to the plan, Blazer said, is that ORDA is deferring some of its maintenance and equipment needs.
Board member Ed Weibrecht said he was concerned about the long-term cost of putting off those expenditures.
"I think we need to stress that we see this as a temporary measure," he said. "This situation just can't go on forever the way it is."
Board member Bob Flacke said the state used to provide ORDA with regular funding for capital upgrades as well as operations.
"I'd like to see us have a meeting with the Budget Division over the capital idea," he said. "The state definitely has a responsibility other than just the operating support. A lot of our equipment is aging."
ORDA board Chairman Joe Martens said the federal government also has a responsibility to the Olympic venues.
"It's not just a state responsibility; there's a national and international component to everything ORDA does," Martens said. "We have been working on a federal request for funds as well."
The board voted unanimously to approve the revised 2010-11 budget.
Later in the meeting, Blazer outlined some of ORDA's "off the wall" marketing efforts for the upcoming winter. The Whiteface Road Warriors, a group of ORDA staff, hosted promotional events this summer in Lake George, Albany, Saratoga Springs and Plattsburgh where people were encouraged to show up in ski gear. Four hundred lift tickets and 50 group lessons were given away to attendees.
Signs and posters advertising ORDA's venues are also being placed in subway stations in New York City and other locations statewide. The signage has a video stamp which, when scanned by a smart phone, will show a film about Lake Placid and the Olympic venues on the person's phone.
With the approval of the state Office of General Services, scenic photos of Whiteface and Gore have also been placed in the elevators at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.
"It's going to look like you're walking into the gondola," Blazer said. "There's a million visitors a year that ride these elevators."