EVERETT — Skate America’s second trip through Everett was deemed a success by all parties involved.
And local figure skating fans may not have to wait another 10 years for the next visit.
Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena played host to 2018 Skate America on Oct. 19-21, an event the arena also hosted in 2008, and in the aftermath both sides are talking about bringing the event back to Everett sooner rather than later.
“In our dream world we’d bring it back in five years, certainly sooner than 10 years,” Tammy Dunn, the sports development director of the Snohomish County Sports Commission, said. “I feel we have the skating fan base, and we’re so close to Canada. I think in another four or five years we’d like to try and bring that back.”
Skate America is one of the biggest figure skating events held in the United States each year. It’s one of the International Skating Union’s six Grand Prix of Figure Skating events, which constitute the highest level of international skating prior to national and world championships and the Olympics.
This year’s event featured the likes of reigning men’s world champion Nathan Chen of the U.S., reigning pairs world silver medalists Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia, reigning ice dance world silver medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the U.S., and reigning ladies world bronze medalist Satoko Miyahara of Japan. All four came away from Skate America with gold medals.
Bob Dunlop, the senior director of events for U.S. Figure Skating, which ran the event, said he was happy with this year’s Skate America, and he echoed Dunn in saying he’d be open to the possibility of having Skate America return to Everett in fewer than 10 years.
“I thought it went really well,” said Dunlop, who held the same position when Skate America was last in Everett in 2008.
“We haven’t had formal discussions about what happens next in terms of timelines,” Dunlop added. “We did agree to have discussions and look to the future. Skate America rotates around the country and there’s no defined pathway. But an arena in the 7,000-8,000 range is the sweet spot for us. There’s no guarantees, but three, four, five years down the road we’ll look at Everett for Skate America or another event.”
Skate America’s attendance this year was down significantly from when Everett hosted in 2008. This year’s attendance over three days and five sessions was 16,863, which historically placed it in the middle of the pack. When Skate America was held in Everett in 2008 it broke the attendance record with 29,477, a record that still stands.
There were several factors in the attendance drop. The most significant was this being immediately after the Olympics, which took place in February. A post-Olympic season typically sees several top names either retire or take a break, meaning this year’s field didn’t have the usual amount of name attraction. In contrast, the 2008 event came in the build-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., and the field included South Korean ladies star Yuna Kim, who at the time may have been the biggest name in international figure skating. This year’s event also had just five sessions while the 2008 edition had six.
“We were happy with it at the end,” Dunlop said about the attendance. “We made good strides the last few weeks. It was lower than 2008, which is the high-water mark, and I think it landed right. It was the first event after an Olympic season and the first international competition of the new season, so there’s a lot of change on the skating side. We had some returnees like Nathan Chen and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, but a lot of the lineup was new athletes, and a lot of times with that changing of the guard the fans maybe don’t know the names the same way. We’re certainly happy with the outcome.”
The skaters themselves were happy with the crowd enthusiasm. One of the standard themes from the skaters in all the post-session press conferences was an appreciation for the crowd support, with Chen describing the crowd as “amazing.”
“We’re so grateful to the audience today for their incredible support,” U.S pairs skater Timothy LeDuc said after he and his partner Ashley Cain won the bronze medal. “The crowd here in Everett was outstanding, they gave us so much energy when we were going out there.”
While the county will aim at bringing Skate America back in about five years, it’s possible Angel of the Winds Arena could be the site of other U.S. Figure Skating events. Dunn said Everett is currently in the running for the 2020 Midwestern and Pacific Coast Synchronized Skating Championships, which take place in October of 2019 — Dunn said she expects to find out within the next 30 days whether Everett wins the bid. There’s also an outside possibility of Everett having a chance of hosting a future U.S. Figure Skating National Championships.
“It was a joy to have (Skate America),” Dunn said. “I know that my team felt more involved than we were last time. It’s hard to believe it was two years and two months since we started the conversation to when it actually happened. We had great partners with Snohomish County, the arena, the City of Everett and the whole community, which is so supportive of events like this. It gives us energy knowing we can host more events like this, not just figure skating, but any other major event.”
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