Skate America was less than a windfall

EVERETT — Skate America may not have been the business boon that some people expected, but the event was still deemed a solid success by local business and tourism officials.

“We had a fabulous week,” said Doug Bartells, general manager of the Holiday Inn, at 3105 Pine St. He called the event “just phenomenal.”

The Holiday Inn was the designated host for the media, which included 135 people from around the Northwest and the world. The skaters themselves and their entourage stayed at the new Tulalip hotel at Quil Ceda Village.

All of the Holiday Inn’s 243 rooms were booked beginning Wednesday. Bartells said many Skate America guests stayed through the weekend and checked out of the hotel Monday.

“We did a lot of food and beverage business,” Bartells added.

Joel Starr, a co-owner of Tailgater Joe’s, was one of the organizers of the event for the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce. He said his bar did about 30 percent more business last week than it had during any other week this year. But he acknowledged that he overestimated the amount of business he would receive before and after the event.

“The dollars we put into the event were all worth it,” Starr said, adding, “But I know some people were disappointed.”

One of them was Ken Schoener, owner of Papi’s Pizza, which is near Comcast Arena, where the skating event was held.

“It was kind of a letdown overall,” he said.

He said the skating events sold about the same amount of pizza as the average Everett Silvertips game. Many restaurants, he noted, were banking on a boost in business from the competition. But visitors didn’t flock to downtown restaurants in the days before and after Skate America as event organizers had suggested, he said. Sales came mostly between skating events.

“Thank God there are three hockey games this week,” he said, noting that he ordered extra inventory, including five kegs of beer, for Skate America.

Still, Schoener would like to see more such events. And Starr said the businesses that added extra staff and worked hard to put on their best face should be proud of their work.

“I think we helped Everett look real good,” he said. “I think there was some disappointment out there, but boy, did we dress up nice.”

Starr said he believes the city and the business community left a good impression on the visitors.

So does Amy Spain, the director of the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau.

“It was fabulous,” she said of the event.

Spain said it will take some time to gather information on the number of hotel rooms occupied and other spending by the visitors. But she said hotels in many communities and the restaurants and bars in downtown Everett clearly did well.

She noted that hotels in Lynn­wood reported getting additional business because places like Everett’s Holiday Inn were full.

Spain said that the event was well attended and well managed and that Everett will likely see more of them. “If you do a good job on the smaller events, they give you the bigger ones,” she said, referring to officials for U.S. Figure Skating.

Spain noted that Spokane had hosted Skate America in 2002 and will host the U.S. figure skating national competition in 2010. In selling 29,477 tickets to its event, Everett beat the previous sales record set by Spokane.

Spain noted that the delegations from 17 countries involved in Skate America will be attending the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C. All got information packets about Everett, inviting them to use local facilities to help train.

“Two of the delegations said they were very interested in pursuing that,” Spain said.

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