By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY -- The late Gov. Hugh Carey saved New York City from bankruptcy in 1975. Now, 37 years later, his son is saving the Empire State Games.
Michael Carey, the son of the late Democratic governor from Brooklyn, was in Rochester on Thursday with local star athletes to announce that the popular games, which were founded by Governor Carey in 1978, will return.
A new not-for-profit foundation, the Empire State Sports Foundation, will fund the games, which were axed in 2009 because of the state's fiscal woes. They will be named the Hugh L. Carey Empire State Games to honor the former two-term governor.
The foundation recently reached a deal with the state's Park Department to revive the games, the group said in a statement.
Carey, a Manhattan-based attorney, will serve as president of the foundation's Board of Governors. Soccer star Abby Wambach and New Jersey Devils hockey player Stephen Gionta -- both from the Rochester area and who played in the games as teenagers-- will serve on the board.
"We are all here for one reason, we love the Empire State Games," Carey said in a statement. "We love what these games have meant for our state, for our communities and for our athletes. And now, today, we are here to announce that we are moving forward with the plan to bring back the Empire State Summer Games. The people of New York want the games back, and we are going make it happen."
The summer games had included 30,000 youth and adult amateur athletes each year competing in dozens of individual and team sports. The games were eliminated in 2009 when the state cut $2.7 million for it.
In 2010, organizers in western New York secured private funding and a pay-to-play model to restart the games. But the games couldn't be sustained the following year, when they were set to be held in Rochester.
The 33rd annual Winter Games will be held in Lake Placid from Feb. 7-10. The summer games will be held July 24-28 in Rochester.
The new private model will seek private money and corporate sponsorship, and it will link both the summer and winter games.
The winter games have been sustained through private donations.
"I played in the Empire State Games, and I loved it," Gionta said in a statement. "It was one of the most memorable moments of my young hockey career. To play against the best in the state, to play for my region, to play for a gold medal - nothing compares. I hope all alumni join me in lending their voice and helping to bring back the Empire State Games."