Empire State Games are returning in summer

Daniel Gonzales, left, of Woodhaven, N.Y., representing the

Daniel Gonzales, left, of Woodhaven, N.Y., representing the New York City Region, and Clare Crowley, of Buffalo, representing Western Region, light the torch during opening ceremonies for the Empire State Games at the University at Buffalo in Amherst, N.Y., Wednesday, July 21, 2010. (AP Photo/ David Duprey) (Credit: AP Photo/David Duprey)

The Empire State Games are making a comeback.

A privately run version of the summer competition, which was canceled the past two years because of state budget cuts, are scheduled for July 24-28 in Rochester. The games are similar to the Olympics, but on a state level.

"We're going forward. We are rebuilding the brand," said Scott Bell, CEO of the Rochester-based Empire State Sports Foundation, which has made a deal with the state parks department to conduct the event. "The Games are on."

No state funds have been allocated, Bell said, noting that these games will be financed by corporate sponsors and individual donors plus a $40-per-athlete participation fee. "We have a great deal of interest from national and state brands," said Bell, who said he already has locked up venues and hotels in the Rochester area.

Bell said his organization has formed a board of governors, headed by Michael Carey, son of former New York Governor Hugh Carey, who founded the event in 1978 and for whom the new games will be named. The board includes prominent Empire State Games alumni such as Abby Wambach (soccer), Christian Laettner (basketball) and Stephen Gionta (hockey), all of whom are part of a "Save the Games" campaign.

The proposed Games, Bell said, will feature the Scholastic division for high school athletes and an Open division for those of college age and older, including former professionals who have not played for at least two years.

"Long Island should be excited that we are adding Open lacrosse," Bell said. "College players and past pros can compete and we think it will be one of the marquee events of the Games."

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