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Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the Bassmasters Elite weigh-in stage in Waddington. Photo: Conant Neville
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the Bassmasters Elite weigh-in stage in Waddington. Photo: Conant Neville

Cuomo celebrates Waddington landing Bassmasters Elite

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Thursday morning hundreds of cheering fans watched the 99 anglers of the Bassmasters Elite Series line up and roar off on the St. Lawrence River for day one of competition. Thousands more people are expected for the tournament through Sunday.

A few hours later, Governor Andrew Cuomo showed up to do some cheering of his own.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

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Waddington's Whittaker Park has become a village of food and craft stands and tackle shops to accommodate the ten thousand Bassmasters fans expected this weekend. The main stage is where the anglers weigh in their catch each afternoon at 3. And that's where Governor Cuomo took the stage, the championship trophy to his left.

Cuomo praised the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and local officials for their efforts to land the national tournament. He said fishing is a $1.8 billion a year industry in New York State.

"It's real jobs, it's real economic development. Tourism is going up year to year. We're up 6 percent. With events like this and this kind of exposure and the good work of Waddington and St. Lawrence, you're going to see that growth even higher."

Cuomo announced that the Finger Lakes region will host a Bassmasters Elite tournament next year. And it will be the site for next year's Governor's Challenge, which was a whitewater rafting event in the Adirondacks this year.

Pat McKeown is CEO of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and one of the architects behind "FISHCAP", the ambitious effort to brand the St. Lawrence River as the fishing capital of the world.

She says Bassmasters doesn't do the same venue two years in a row, so that gives her office time to plan for 2015 and beyond. She says it's the future of the St. Lawrence County economy.

"We don't have General Motors anymore. The prospects of another Alcoa, slim to none. Tourism is where it's at. With 200 lakes, rivers, and streams all packed full of fighting fish, this is our industry, right here."

The big question is this – does a national caliber event like this generate enough money for the local economy? The St. Lawrence County legislature kicked in 75,000 taxpayer dollars for the effort. McKeown admits that remains to be seen. To find out, she's hired Clarkson University's School of Business to do an economic impact study of the weekend.

After the press conference, Cuomo slipped away for fishing and quality time with his daughter. They worked the waters downriver by Hawkins Point north of the Moses-Saunders power dam. He joked he was going to land a big one, and maybe take home that Bassmasters trophy next to him.

 

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