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      Empire State Games suspended for 2009

      The Empire State Summer Games have been suspended for one year.

      The state parks department, which oversees the event, made the announcement late Thursday afternoon. The ESG Web site was updated earlier in the day to say the games were off.

      The state eliminated all funding for the Empire State Games in this year's budget, and games officials already had notified coaches they wouldn't be needed this summer.

      State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash said an advisory committee will be formed to determine how to restructure the Empire State Games and create a program for the future, including the summer 2010 event in Buffalo and the Winter Games in Lake Placid.

      "The committee will consider such items as private fundraising, participant fees, numbers of competitions and non-sporting-related costs," Ash said in a statement.

      In January, Ash announced that, because of the budget crisis facing the state, athletes would have to pay a $285 fee to participate in the Summer Games. That upset organizers and participants and led the host Hudson Valley Region to pull out.

      "Moving forward, it is difficult to foresee that the state, alone, will be in the position to continue to fund 90 percent of the cost of the overall program," Ash said.

      Fred Smith, executive director of The Empire State Games, said the state's share is closer to 55 percent: $1.7 million out of a $3 million total annual budget. The games started in 1978.

      This year's Senior Games, which rely on a participation fee, will occur as scheduled in Cortland on June 2-7. The Games for the Physically Challenged, which have been paid for in part, will go off as scheduled May 28-30 in Uniondale, Long Island.