Briefs: Board for disabled athletes created+

Filed under: Sports |

The United States Olympic Committee is developing a new national governing board to represent disabled athletes who plan to compete in upcoming Paralympic Games. This includes amputees, people who are legally blind or have suffered a spinal cord injury, wheelchair-bound athletes, dwarfs and athletes with cerebral palsy.

The United States Paralympic Corp. was borne out of a 1998 amendment to the 1978 Amateur Sports Act. This gave the USOC the opportunity to create and implement an Olympic program for disabled athletes Ƒ{ a program that previously was thrown together as an afterthought to the Olympic Games.

Its focus is four-fold, said Charlie Huebner, the newly appointed director for the organization. One is to create a strategic plan that would address its governance and organizational issues. He also hopes to increase direct funding to elite paralympic athletes and enhance the relationship with other national governing bodies by creating integrated programs. Huebner¡¦s fourth goal is for the new organization to become financially self-sufficient.

The USPC¡¦s budget of $15 million will come from the USOC for the first quadrennium. The money will go toward salaries, training expenses, competition fees, travel costs and coaching. This is a $5 million increase from the last quadrennium, said Huebner, who hopes to staff his office the first year with up to five employees, including a senior marketing executive and sports manager. The Paralympic Games are typically held two weeks after the Olympic Games in the same city. The upcoming Salt Lake City Paralympic Games will be held March 7 through March 16 with five competing sports. They include alpine and Nordic skiing, sled hockey, the biathlon (shooting and Nordic skiing) and ice racing. The summer games consist of 16 sports. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, 256 disabled American athletes participated. The winter Paralympics in Nagano, Japan saw 53 disabled American athletes participate. More than 1,800 paralympic athletes attended the Sydney paralympic trials.

¡§I see this organization as a great opportunity to increase resources, support, and the NGB relationship with the USOC family,¡¨ said Huebner, who begins his position April 16.

Huebner isn¡¦t new to the community of disabled athletes. He has been the executive director for the United States Blind Athletes Association for the past nine years. Mark Lucas, formerly the assistant director, will be acting executive director for the USABA until a permanent replacement is found.

Meanwhile, Huebner is looking for permanent office space in the downtown area for his new guild. He is negotiating with two businesses for donated space and will temporarily be housed at the USOC until he acquires the 2,400 square feet he needs.

Classic enjoys full ownership

A local builder is now in the sports business since purchasing the remaining ownership of a local hockey team.

Classic Homes, which owned 50 percent of the Colorado Gold Kings hockey team when the team arrived two-and-a-half years ago, now owns the team outright after a deal was made between Classic¡¦s CEO Jeff Smith and Gold Kings¡¦ founder, part owner, president and CEO John Rosie.

¡§Classic could consolidate ownership and take it to the next level,¡¨ said Dan Winter, Classic¡¦s vice president of business development. The deal was complex, said Winter, who refused to disclose details. However, he said it was a ¡§straight-across interest swap¡¨ that took place Feb. 28.

When Rosie brought the team to town, he was looking for investors, said Jeff Newman, the team¡¦s general manager. Classic was interested and purchased half ownership for an undisclosed price. Classic erected its new building soon thereafter and made room for the minor-league hockey team. This worked out well, said Newman, since Classic handled payroll, accounting and human resources for the team.

¡§The crowds have been steadily increasing,¡¨ said Newman. ¡§We are above paid attendance by 1,000 (per game) over last year and we are significantly above our gate (dollar figure for each night) from the last two years.¡¨

Also, sponsorships have tripled since last year, said Newman. The Gold Kings are now close to a break-even point with revenues.

Tickets sold at home games are within goal of 120,000 for the season, said Newman, adding that the two remaining home games before playoffs (March 27 and March 28) should scoop in another 10,000 fans. Playoffs at The World Arena will be on April 11 and April 13 with another game possible set for April 17.

Although Newman thought the transaction would take place later this year, he said he is pleased at the direction Classic intends to take the team. The office recently re-signed five players ¡X Craig Lions, Tom Perry, R.J. Enga, Zac Boyer, and Craig Chapman ¡X into the 2003 season.Coach Kirk Thomlinson was also re-signed for two more years.

Rosie will act as a consultant for Classic while enjoying some time off and developing his next venture. He has been in the hockey business for nearly 25 years, said Newman, and has ¡§been a valuable asset to the community and club.¡¨

¡§Ultimately, it¡¦s going to be exceptional,¡¨ said Newman. ¡§It will streamline the administrative side to make it concise, and it will ultimately open up more conversation between the hockey operations and the administrative side.¡¨