The New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) has announced that after a 10-month construction project, the 400-meter James C. Sheffield Speed Skating Oval at the Olympic Center has reopened to the public.
The Speed Skating Oval was dedicated to James C. “Bunnie” Sheffield by the Olympic Organizing Committee in 1978. Sheffield was inducted into the National Speed Skating Hall of Fame in 1971, and his inspiration contributed to the organization and promotion of winter sports, including the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid.
The Oval hosted Lake Placid’s first international speed skating event in 1920, and this established a foundation of the region being a global arena for athletic competition, and ultimately its successful 1932 Winter Olympic bid. During the 1932 Games, the Oval was the site of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and became home of the original tiered Olympic podium, where Lake Placid native Jack Shea was awarded gold.
At the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Oval’s events featured 106 athletes breaking records, including Eric Heiden, who became the only athlete in the history of speed skating to win five events in a single Olympic Games.
The Oval is now networked to the Olympic Center’s new four-rink high-efficiency refrigeration system. This is expected to make the outdoor skating season longer and its ice more consistent, and the Oval’s white dyed concrete decreases the effects of sun absorption. Updated geometry brings the facility into compliance with requirements for it to host high-level international competitions once again.
The Oval has been updated with a new building constructed with masonry and earth tone siding, featuring guest lean-to huts. New LED lighting has modernized the Oval and it can be themed for special competitions and recognizing social causes. Access to the Oval has been redesigned with updated entry gates, fencing, and flagpoles, and an updated plaza area features skate-friendly rubber surfaces. The Oval also features a skate rental cabin and a new hockey box.
The Oval is the second major completion within ORDA’s multi-phase modernization of the entire Olympic Center complex. The new Jack Shea 1932 Arena opened December 3, and ORDA is presently finishing construction of the Herb Brooks 1980 Arena while renovating guest facilities including dining, retail, and the new Lake Placid Olympic Museum.
The James C. Sheffield Speed Skating Oval will host the FISU World University Speed Skating Championships March 2-5, 2022, and all long-track speed skating events during the FISU World University Games in January 2023.
To celebrate the Oval, ORDA invites the public to complimentary public skating sessions on Thursday, January 6th from 1 to 3 pm and 7 to 9 pm. Free hot chocolate will be served. For information about schedules, upcoming events, and activities, click here.
The ORDA Board of Directors this week approved a $60.3 million budget for the coming fiscal year, a slight increase from the 2021-2022 fiscal year
Photo of James C. Sheffield Speed Skating Oval courtesy Wikimedia user LunchboxLarry.