As of July 31, ORDA's revenues were running about $600,000 ahead of 2011. ORDA President and CEO Ted Blazer said numbers for the 2012 summer season increased over last year by about a quarter of a million dollars. Visitation is up by about 11.6 percent, and revenue is up about 12.35 percent.
Meanwhile, ORDA has already made some investments at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, located in Highmount in the Catskills. ORDA officials say they're ready for the upcoming ski season there.
Emily Sanders of the Bonadio Group in Albany told ORDA officials that total operating revenues are about $183,000 higher than last year. Revenues for arena, snow sports and skating activities are up $233,000 because of additional events and skating programs during the summer.
ORDA board member Bob Flacke said last year’s lack of snow hurt. He commended ORDA’s staff for making the necessary adjustments: “To be able to switch your operating plan to a no-snow winter and still come out on a positive vein at the end of the year in your operating account - it was a good accomplishment; it really was,” he said. “I thought it would be much worse. You reacted early, and obviously you reacted early because you had the data that showed you had a problem.”
ORDA President and CEO Ted Blazer said a good summer did a lot to make up for the bad winter: “It’s important that we perform well and we control expenses,” he said. “Just because we start to make a little more revenue, it doesn’t mean the expense side goes crazy. You just can’t look at where you’re at; you have to look at where you were.”
ORDA is also busy preparing for its first season at Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in the Catskills. Blazer said ORDA is working to complete the transfer of Belleayre from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to ORDA.
“We had our staff go down and start to integrate so that they get to know us so that it makes it more comfortable,” Blazer said. “It’s kind of a gradual move. We said that in the beginning. We’re going to spend a good amount of time watching how things work, and then we’re going to make adjustments as we see necessary moving forward.”
Blazer said ORDA and DEC have to work out a few “finer points” before the transfer process can begin. He said those talks should wrap up within the next month.
ORDA began taking over Belleayre operations earlier this year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the transfer. The governor’s proposal followed a report by the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission that revealed fiscal problems that persisted under DEC’s management.
Blazer said taking over operations at a ski mountain downstate won’t be easy. He said there will be challenges, but he’s confident that ORDA staff will be able to handle them.
Blazer said Belleayre could open up opportunities for the Lake Placid region: “Obviously, we’re going to look after the Belleayre ski area,” he said, “but there’s other ski areas in the Catskill region that if we work together with them, and we can draw a bunch of people up from New York - all those ships rise as the water comes up.
“One of my big missions is working together with the private ski areas there to come up with a really nice plan to get the Catskills really punched and moving. And then from that, we move them up. Instead of going up to Vermont for maybe one of their ski vacations that they all do, to go north, to Gore, to Lake Placid, to Whiteface, to Wilmington.”
Two new board members, Ulster County Legislator John Parete and Joe Kelly, chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, attended last week’s board meeting.
Kelly said Belleayre officials are excited about the transition to ORDA management. He said the last three or four years have been difficult: “I think what you give to us is the Olympic tradition, the expertise that you’ve shown here,” Kelly said. “I think what we provide, besides Belleayre and all of its rich traditions, is the connection with the New York City metropolitan area that is very strong at Belleayre and in downstate communities. We’re happy that this has been done, and we look forward to working together.”
Belleayre will also be signing up for ski shows, and the mountain is again part of I SKI NY, an organization that promotes ski areas throughout the state.
ORDA will purchase new groomers and snowmaking equipment for Belleayre, and is planning improvements at the ski lodge. Blazer said a new ticket scanning system will be implemented as well.