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INSIDE BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY

Officials: University a host with the most

By : Stephen P. Jensen


The Empire State Games torch was lit outside the Events Center during opening ceremonies July 28.
The Empire State Games came and went – again – last month, and through the laundry list of opinions, reviews have been encouraging.

Tim Schum, campus coordinator of the Games, described the 2004 version as a “customer-friendly event.”

Schum, who this summer reprised his role from the year 2000 as the University’s go-to guy, said the fact that the Games were focused on campus was once more a huge boost for the University.

“You only get one chance to make an impression, and it seemed to be a positive one,” Schum said. “I spoke with regional coordinators, officials, medical staff – everyone gave positive feedback.

“People liked that there was a central location for everything to emanate from,” he said. “The campus was the host, and that was clear.”

Adding the Events Center was a boon as well, he said. “People who came back from four years ago, for them it was a great addition,” he said. “It gave us a venue for two sports – basketball and judo – and it created a new image. Between 2000 and 2004, we’ve become a Division I sports school and that facility certainly creates a big-time image. It became a focal point for a lot of people.”

Jim Schiltz, a sports writer for the Schenectady Daily Gazette, counted the 2004 Binghamton version as the 17th straight Empire State Games he’s covered. He sat courtside at the Events Center for the Adirondack Region scholastic boys basketball team face-off with New York City and shared his take on how Binghamton University stacks up as a Games host. “Thumbs up,” he said. “In Long Island, the Games are spread out. Utica, same thing. Having the events centrally located makes it easier for the writers, and thus, better coverage statewide. I know because I’ve done it.

“This is the way it should be,” he said. “I think most of the people covering the Games agree with that.

RAVE REVIEWS

These are things Fred Smith likes to hear

. “Binghamton’s a wonderful host,” said Smith, executive director for the Empire State Games since 1995. “The local organizing committee was great and the experience of having the Games here in 2000 gave them the perspective of knowing what to do in certain circumstances. There was a big comfort zone here.”

Smith cited outstanding facilities, notably the Events Center, as highlights.

“That Events Center bailed us out of a tough situation,” he said, referring to the torrential rains that hit on the eve of the Games.

“We hadn’t finished our meeting and the crew here at BU was already at work to make the changes we needed. After the ceremonies, they put it all back together in time for the first day of events.”

“I thought our committee responded very well on the fly,” said Schum, “particularly our Physical Facilities people and our volunteers.”

“The fact that the University has an infrastructure with a solid communication network and the expertise needed on campus made that all possible,” Smith said.

Those base factors drive the Games, said Smith, and at Binghamton, they sat at the edge of a deeper commitment.

“We’re the evaluators,” he said of the Games staff, “so if we’re invited by a location to come and evaluate a request, we’ll go out and spend a couple days on site. Then we forward our recommendation to ... the governor.”

Smith said that for drawing the 2000 Games here, factors included the size of the University with plenty of available housing for athletes, facilities capable of handling 28 sports and an enthusiastic response from the community.

A perfect fit

Smith said he also likes the fact that Binghamton isn’t extremely large.

“It’s a good size university with things we need,” he said, “but I think we are, for lack of a better way to put it, a big fish in this pond. We’ve been in cities that consider themselves pro sports towns, and in them we get lost.

“In those venues, the Games have been good, but not as good as in Binghamton, or in Ithaca, for that matter.” Jim Nowicki is a Buffalo resident who’s coordinated the Games’ basketball officials for the last six years. He’s been working the hard court himself for 27.

“I think Binghamton rates as the best,” said Nowicki, “because of the proximity of the venues. It’s a great benefit to the athletes and other officials who want to watch other events. At other sites, you have a half-hour drive between events and you miss a lot.

“Logistically, it’s almost perfect,” he said. “It’s like a mini-Syracuse, and this might even be better because the shuttle rides are that much shorter.”

From members of the media, to officials to event coordinators, the opinions jibed: the 2004 Binghamton Empire State Games were even better than the year 2000, and more than that, they were among the best ever.

Said Nowicki: “Binghamton is centrally located, so it’s easy for the New York City kids to get here, and the Long Island kids, and the far-upstate kids.”

Back so soon?

So, will the Games return to BU?

“I’ll share a comment I received from one of the regional directors,” said Schum. “He said that if there was ever a chance that the Empire State Games might decide to centralize and use one site, he would opt to have everything come here.”

Not so fast, said Smith.

“We used to do it (hold the Games in one location) and it burned out volunteers,” Smith said, “and if you hit them over and over, and you tap the corporate base over and over, it gets to be a bit much.

“And there’s the economic impact,” he said. “This is a roughly $10 million impact for the area, when all’s said and done.”

Coming back to Binghamton in another four years is always a possibility, Smith said. But he also said that kind of success rate in attracting the Games is unprecedented.

“We were in Buffalo in 1996 and went back there in 2003,” he said. “The Games were in Rochester in ’98 and it was just announced there for 2006.”

But Binghamton is building a track record of its own.

“We’d be willing to come back as soon as we could,” Smith said. “Binghamton has proven itself again to be a terrific host. I can’t say enough about the University and the area.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08