Village of Lake Placid signs off on NSA loan

LAKE PLACID – The village of Lake Placid is set to loan the National Sports Academy $206,500.

Mayor Craig Randall signed loan documents this week to make the transaction official. NSA was on the brink of closure late last year but was able to stay open after receiving huge cash infusions from donors, including parents and alumni. The loan from the village’s revolving fund will be used primarily for unexpected capital expenses.

During a discussion about the loan at Monday’s village Board of Trustees meeting, Trustee Art Devlin said there’s a perception among some taxpayers that the village is giving the school money. Randall stressed that the loan has been personally guaranteed by NSA trustees and it will be paid back with 5 percent interest.

“Many people feel that we are giving them money,” Trustee Jason Leon added.

Village Attorney Janet Bliss said the school will pay interest only for the first six months of the loan. For the remaining 54 months, NSA will pay fixed principal and accrued interest.

“They will also be paying my legal fees and (Adirondack Economic Development Corporation’s) fees,” Bliss said.

Randall noted that the money from the village’s Revolving Loan Fund originated from a Housing and Urban Development grant, which was given to the village to lend to the Mirror Lake Inn following a devastating fire in the 1990s. The hotel eventually returned the money to the village, and the loan fund was established to help businesses create or retain jobs.

“The original funds were never derived from taxpayers from the village of Lake Placid,” Leon said. “I just want to be very clear about that.”

In a May 7 letter to the NSA school community, shared with the Enterprise by school officials, new Board of Trustees Chairman Brett West explained that the school had “literally no money” prior to its financial restructuring and the installation of a new board. He said the school had a $325,000 line of credit that was “expended and becoming due” as well as $400,000 in unpaid bills dating back to September. He also wrote that staff members were “quitting by the day” and that students were “running amuck.”

The new board raised more than $800,000 to continue the school’s operation through the rest of this year, West said.

“We have been hiring, replacing and adding highly qualified staff,” he wrote. “We put in new academic guidelines and many other school directives and initiatives. The school is not yet near what we are aiming for, but there have been significant improvements in a very short period of time.”

West said the board is implementing a three-year plan to clear the school of outstanding debt. He said NSA plans to have two boys’ hockey teams and three girls’ hockey teams, and wants to add 15 to 20 Alpine students, 15 to 20 luge students, and a small number of ice skaters, ski jumpers and other winter sports athletes.

“Most importantly, we intend to shed the reputation of ‘No School Academy’ and beef up the academics,” West wrote. “While we will always remain a ‘sports school,’ we must do a better job with the academics. We are looking to add summer programs, and to develop robust technology-based educational solutions for our athletes whether they are on the road or in Lake Placid.”

NSA did increase its tuition and fees, West noted. He said NSA rates were “well below” those charged at comparable private schools.

“It is imperative that NSA generate more revenue,” he wrote. “Since the school does not have an endowment, nor do we currently do well with alumni support, almost all of our revenues are derived from tuition and fees.”

West said NSA has hired a new head of development and has also made other staffing changes.

Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or