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Opera stars take the stage in Phoenicia tomorrow, but ORDA's Ted Blazer may steal the spotlight
By Lissa Harris
8/1/12 - 12:44 pm
8/1/12 - 12:44 pm
Tomorrow, the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice opens with "The Benefit," an operatic comedy starring Maria Todaro and Michelle Jennings.
But even before the show begins, all eyes will be on another VIP: Ted Blazer, president of the Olympic Regional Development Authority, which is in the process of taking over the state-run Belleayre Ski Center. Blazer is slated to deliver a few opening remarks before the show.
Blazer's visit is much-anticipated in the region. Since state lawmakers announced early this year that Belleayre would be transferred to ORDA from the Department of Environmental Conservation, rumors have been swirling, and many locals who depend on Belleayre for a paycheck or the health of their business have been anxious for details about the ORDA handoff.
Local anxiety about the future of Belleayre has only intensified in the wake of the DEC's firing of longtime Belleayre superintendent Tony Lanza without explanation, and the revelation that the state Inspector General's office has been investigating management practices on the mountain for some time.
But ORDA and the DEC have been reluctant to speak about the transfer, or to reveal any details about when the handoff will be complete and what changes it will bring to Belleayre. Two local representatives were named to the ORDA board last month -- Ulster County legislator John Parete and the former chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, Joe Kelly -- but they have yet to attend one of ORDA's quarterly board meetings.
Recently, though, Blazer did speak publicly about the ORDA takeover of Belleayre, in an appearance on NY Now with Times-Union reporter Casey Seiler. Around the 7:30 mark in the video below, Seiler asks Blazer about Belleayre.
Here is a transcription of the section where the two talk about Belleayre:
Seiler: You mentioned one of the biggest changes to your business, which is the takeover, I guess you would say...moving from management by DEC to management by ORDA of the Belleayre resort in the Catskills. You yourself are a Catskills native. What will ORDA's blueprint for that resort be, as you come into your first season running it?
Blazer: Well, it's a great facility, number one, it's a great location. And we're going to spend a fair amount of time just seeing how it operates, seeing what the customers are like, what the staff is like, the facility, how it runs, how it operates. The whole ball of wax there. Before we just go in and just wipe things, we're going to really spend some time, thoughtful time, to see how things are going, and the needs and the requirements. I think that's a smart business model to put into place.
Obviously we have ways we do things which are different, and that's going to take time for the staff to understand that. So this is going to be a big learning year for us, and what we want to do is A. run a safe facility, B. make it so whoever shows up, that they're having a great time, and the best conditions possible. And then we really want to maximize the revenue sources, and control expenses where we can.
Seiler: To that point: It's a unique resort in terms of ORDA's holdings, in the sense that it really is in close geographic proximity to Hunter, to Windham, to a number of large, well-developed ski resorts. Does that present a higher degree of, I guess you would say, economic or political difficulty? As a state-run facility you don't want to be going head to head too much with private industry.
Blazer: Certainly I've spent a lot of time working with the people from those private resorts, and I sit on the board of Ski Areas of New York as vice chairman. Also, they elected me to be a board member of the National Ski Areas Association. So there's a trust that has grown between the private resorts and the areas that the Olympic Authority manages. What I want to do is to take that trust and to transcend it into a new relationship again, with Belleayre as partners with the whole Catskills region.
We have to look at this as a much bigger item. New York State has unbelievable resources. And what we don't want to do is keep allowing people to not think, 'maybe we can go skiing in the Catskills,' instead of going up to New England. We want to capture that and redirect it.
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