LAKE PLACID — Starting Monday, thousands of athletes and spectators — even more than at the Ironman triathlon weekend — will come to this village for the Lake Placid Summit Classic lacrosse tournament. With that comes the worry of crimes such as underage drinking, disorderly conduct and the occasional fight.
Lake Placid Police Chief Bill Moore said he’s noticed that when a major event comes to town, only a small percentage of people start trouble.
“I like to say about 1 percent of the people are problematic,” he said. “Of course, if the event is bigger, that 1 percent is bigger, but I think we’ve curtailed illegal activities over the past few years.”
In terms of staff, Moore said law enforcement is well-equipped.
“We don’t allow vacations during that three-week time period of Ironman, lacrosse and [Can-Am] rugby,” he said. “We also bring in four to six state troopers and two to three members of the [Essex County] Sheriff’s Department. We’ve found that having a large police presence is a crime deterrent.”
The Lake Placid Summit Classic is much larger than the Can-Am Rugby Tournament, which is currently taking place in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. While this year’s rugby tournament attracted 102 teams, the lacrosse tournament will bring in roughly 250. The rugby tournament also had a reputation for rowdy behavior through the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, but it has calmed down substantially since then.
Moore said he’s seen a decrease in the amount of arrests during lacrosse weekends ever since police started working with the Lacrosse Summit Society, a group of tournament staffers that seeks to keep the peace while making the event enjoyable and safe. “Camaraderie, Competition and Respect” is the group’s motto.
“Maybe we’ll get called for a moderate noise complaint,” Moore said, “and the society will be able to ease the situation by removing a player from a game or canceling a match. We don’t overlook crimes or hesitate to make arrests, but if it’s something like a noise complaint or kids running around the halls in a hotel, we’ll let the lacrosse staff assist us. I think it’s worked pretty well over the last few years.”
“There was a time years ago when we had serious crimes, and we made plenty of arrests,” he continued, “but there’s definitely been fewer as of recent.”
The Hillcrest neighborhood is one of the prime vacation rental locations for lacrosse players and other visitors. Plenty of complaints have come from this neighborhood over the years because of all-night partying and loud noise.
Village Mayor Craig Randall grew up on Hillcrest Avenue and said plenty of full-time residents and families used to live there, but things changed and people moved away.
“The problem is the houses are so big over there,” he said, “so as families move on, these large homes are often converted into vacation rentals. Now the bulk of Hillcrest is vacation rentals.”
Village Trustee Peter Holderied lives on Highland Place, right off of Hillcrest. He doesn’t get the full experience of late-night parties, noisy tourists and overstuffed driveways, but he has experienced it to some degree, he said.
“There’s a big house next to mine that’s a rental,” Holderied said. “It’s huge. You can fit 30 people in that house. But it all depends on who’s in the house. Sometimes it’s noisy, and sometimes it isn’t. The people on Hillcrest definitely get more of that, though.”
Another area of concern each year during the tournament is the Flume waterfalls on the West Branch of the AuSable River in Wilmington. People here for the lacrosse tournament would go there, throw parties and leave behind beer cans and liquor bottles. Diane Kirby of Wilmington goes there often to pick up litter. In an interview with the Lake Placid News after last year’s lacrosse tournament, she said the week of the event is one of the biggest cleanups for her, and she’ll sometimes see up to 150 people at the Flume at once.
“And it’s almost always beer cans and beer bottles,” Kirby said. “That’s what’s a little distressing to me is all of the drinking that goes on, and they are swimming in the river.”
George Leveille co-founded the tournament and is the principal and strategic adviser. He said the Summit Society took shape about two years ago.
“We try to embody in every participant that it is a privilege to play in such a beautiful area,” he said, “and the players should be respectful. We know the tournament has a huge economic impact on the community, and we want our players’ behavior to reflect that positivity.”
Leveille said the Society staff tries to have a large presence during the week of the tournament and has a zero-tolerance policy.
“For that week, our staff is present on the street, on the fields and in the hotels,” he said. “Vacation rentals are beyond our limits in some regards. If someone is behaving out of control, we will bar [him or her] from the event as best we can. If you lose your spot, there’s a good chance you’ll never get back in.”
The earlier years of the tournament were a little more hectic, but it’s stabled out recently, according to Leveille.
“I think it’s morphed into a more family-oriented event,” he said. “Some of these kids might play here for the next 40 years.”
Some changes were made to reduce rowdy behavior.
“We moved our open divisions of players from ages 18 to 30; that was a problem group,” Leveille said. “They used to play Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so they would get here on Thursday, go out drinking and start problems. Now we have them playing just Saturday and Sunday. Friday is more of a travel day for them now, so it’s helped curtail any stupid behavior.”
Summit held its youth tournament in Lake Placid at the end of June, and Leveille said it was a success in terms of players being respectful.
“I didn’t get one call or complaint,” he said, “and we hope that trend stays true through the big tournament.”
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