Empire State Sports Foundation Needs Tax-Exempt Status to Help Fundraising & Bring ‘Empire State Games’ to Rochester in 2013 - Schumer Urges IRS to Grant Critical Status So Foundation Can Complete Agreement & Line Up Sponsors to Bring Tradition Back to Life in NYS

Empire Games Have 30 Year Tradition of Providing Entertainment and Millions in Economic Impact for NY Cities – Lack of State Funding Forced Games to Be Discontinued

Schumer: We Must Get the Empire State Games Off the Side-Lines and Back in Rochester


Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Internal Revenue Service to quickly approve Empire State Sports Foundation’s (ESSF) application seeking tax-exempt status for their newest venture to take over the “Empire State Games” and bring them back, beginning in Rochester in 2013. In 2010, the NYS Parks Department was forced to discontinue the decades-long tradition of the Empire State Games due to lack of funding, and now ESSF needs non-profit status approved so that they can raise money and line up title sponsors in order to be ready to put on the games in Rochester in 2013.

ESSF has received a written letter of intent from the New York State Department of Parks to privatize and run the “Empire State Games” for ten years.  However, the agreement cannot be finalized until ESSF formally receives 501(c)(3) status since public donations and contributions to the foundation depend on the IRS determination. Schumer is urging the IRS to step up to the plate immediately, so that this foundation can move forward with plans to bring back this important source of both recreation and economic activity in New York.   

“The Empire State Games have a long tradition of excellence and healthy competition for our youth across New York, drawing tens of thousands of young athletes to try out for regional teams each year,” said Schumer. “The Games touch residents in every town, village and city in every corner of the state, and that’s why it is critical that its new organizer, Empire State Sports Foundation, get the support they need to revive these Games and get them back off the ground in Rochester in 2013. In order to raise sufficient money and line up title sponsors, Empire State Sports Foundation is seeking tax-exempt status from the IRS, and I am joining that effort to get their application over the finish line. ESSF has a long-term goal to build a solid foundation that ensures the Empire State Games will play, year in and year out, and I’m pushing the IRS to help make that goal a reality.”

“We have bold plans to take the best of the Empire State Games, and build this sports experience to even greater Olympic heights, across all of New York State.  Anyone who has ever participated in the Games will point to that experience as a highlight of their youth. Our kids, today and tomorrow, deserve nothing less,” said Vincent Hope, President of Empire State Sports Foundation Inc.  “Now is the time to bring private money together to ensure that the tradition of an amateur “Olympic” moment remains a defining moment for kids growing up in New York.”

“When I was made aware of a significant backlog in the processing of 501(c)(3) applications, I was happy to work with my staff in encouraging the IRS to apply their official expedited process to review the application for the Empire State Games Foundation,” said Representative Louise Slaughter. “I’m a strong advocate for initiatives that bring resources and opportunity to Rochester and I am certainly hopeful that my efforts will assist the Empire State Games Foundation in reintroducing the games in 2013.” 

“For 30 years the Empire State Games have offered young athletes a wonderful opportunity to compete and strive for excellence,” said New York State Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle, D-Irondequoit. “I am delighted to have been able to play a role in keeping this tradition alive for many years to come, and especially grateful to Senator Schumer and President Hope for their great dedication and leadership.”

The Empire State Games have been a program of the New York State office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation since they first took place at Syracuse University in 1978. This multi-sport event for amateur athletes is modeled after the Olympic programs, for New York State residents. The most recent Empire State Games took place in 2010 in Buffalo, and were discontinued later that year due to lack of funding. The Empire State Sports Foundation now plans to revive the Empire State Games, so that the games resume, beginning in Rochester in 2013.  According to ESSF President Hope, to do this successfully, it will require a year of rebuilding, so that the next Games are as good as they have ever been. This all hinges on ESSF gaining full tax-exempt status. Schumer, Slaughter and Morelle are pushing the IRS to swiftly provide this status so that the Empire State Games can be revived in Rochester.

Over its 30 year existence, the Empire State Games have been hosted by different cities each year providing great entertainment and up to a $12 to 15 million economic impact for each hosting region. The ESSF is currently coordinating with potential sponsors and dozens of businesses and community leaders, in order to ensure the long-term continuity of the Games. Once ESSF receives full tax-exempt status those agreements can be formalized and plans for future host cities can be announced. 


A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter appears below:

Douglas H. Shulman, Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC  20224

Dear Commissioner Shulman:

I write today with great urgency concerning an expedited request for the 501(c)(3) application of Empire State Sports Foundation, Inc.  ESSF has received a written letter of intent from the New York State Department of Parks to privatize and run the “Empire State Games” for ten years.  However, the agreement cannot be finalized until ESSF formally receives 501(c)(3) status.  I am seeking your assistance to ensure this process moves forward as quickly as possible.

The Games have a storied tradition in New York and have played an important role in the lives of many of our young athletes for decades.  The Olympic-style competition was the first of its kind in the United States, run by the state for the past thirty years.  In addition to the tens of thousands of New York athletes that take part annually, the Games provide a significant source of economic activity for host cities, estimated at $12 million to $15 million a year. 

To ensure the competition can proceed as scheduled in 2013, ESSF must immediately undertake a funding campaign.  Without the requisite 501(c)(3) status, the state cannot proceed with formalization of the transition and the sponsorship campaign cannot move forward.  As a result, this program-- which impacts communities, schools and tens of thousands of citizens all across the state-- is completely paused as it waits for IRS action. 

In support of this expedited request, I understand the IRS has already received documentation laying out the agreement between the state and ESSF, as well as letters from community and economic development leaders and potential sponsors, explaining the ramifications of delay.  We should do everything we can to support their effort in a timely manner. 

Again, I ask that your agency favorably consider the expedited request of ESSF’s 501(c)(3) status and allow them to quickly get on with their planning for the 2013 Games.  Please feel free to contact my office should you require any additional information related to this request.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate