It was a whirlwind trip to Skate America, my first-ever Grand Prix event and my first-ever skating road trip. I’ll wrap up my coverage with some notes on my experience as a fan/writer at Skate America.
The event was held this year at Panther Arena in Milwaukee. It’s a small arena, right in downtown Milwaukee, home base for basketball/hockey teams from University of Wisconsin. Because the arena is small, the whole event had a rather relaxed, cozy feeling. The seats themselves were a little cramped with not much leg room, and there wasn’t much in the way of concession food, but it was still nice. And again, because it wasn’t too big, there was a good view from pretty much every seat in the house.
Downtown Milwaukee was attractive, but a bit sleepy compared to bigger cities. There weren’t too many people around on the streets, even on Friday, a work day. Nonetheless, there were many big hotels located conveniently close to the arena.
I was able to get a discounted rate at the official hotel for the event, the Hilton City Center in Milwaukee. This was the first time I’ve traveled to an event, and thus the first time I’ve stayed at the official hotel. It was so much fun! The skater sightings started the moment I walked in the door, and continued right up until I left. Staying at the same hotel as the skaters and officials makes it feel like you’re part of the event. The hotel itself was very nice and very convenient, with a Starbucks, buffet room, and two restaurants on the first floor. And it was just a quick 5-minute walk to the arena.
I arrived on Friday morning at 9:00 a.m., and the schedule was packed. There were practices until 2:00 on Friday, and the short programs went from 3:30-11:00 with just a brief dinner break. On Saturday, practices resumed at 7:15 a.m., continued till noon, then the long programs ran from 1:30-11:00, with dinner break.
Having attended 2 full competitions now, I’ve learned there isn’t much time for sightseeing, relaxing, or even sleep at skating events, unless you skip practices. But I love watching practice, and I figure that’s what I’m there for, so I was pretty much in the arena or the hotel nearly the whole time except for the dinner break Saturday night, when my friend and I met up with a bunch of skating fans from FSU. It was great to meet some other skating fans!!
For those interested, I spotted skaters/officials/coaches all over the place! Sightings included:
- Alaine Chartrand talking in the lobby when I came in
- Jenny Kirk and Dave Lease from TSL watching practice and chatting with Tom Z
- Gracie Gold signing many autographs and speaking with fans at the arena as she left practices
- Carly Gold relaxing in the hotel lobby (congratulated her on her recent Regionals win)
- Danny O’Shea and Chris Knierim taking pictures and chatting pleasantly with fans at the arena Friday night after the pairs SP
- Mariah Bell and Hawayek/Baker watching practices
- Tammy Gambill having dinner in the pub downstairs
- Igor Shpilband taking the elevator down before the ice dance final, with his very stylishly dressed girlfriend Adrienne Lenda
- Adian Pitkeev waiting for the elevator by himself after the men’s SP Friday, looking very young
- USFSA President Samuel Auxier and his wife Lynne taking the elevator up Friday night; she seemed very nice
- ISU Figure Skating Sport Director Charlie Cyr sitting in the row behind me with, I believe, Ross Miner’s parents
- Han Yan smiling and taking pictures with fans on the way back to the hotel
- Jessica Pfund getting coffee at Starbucks 2 hours before her pairs final
- Astakhova/Rogonov leaving the hotel to walk to the pairs final
- Skaters eating a special late-night buffet dinner after the long programs ended Saturday night
- Wang/Liu and Han Yan having breakfast the next morning at 7:00 in the buffet room
Yup . . . I’m a fangirl! 🙂 It was so much fun seeing the skaters at a competition and getting a sense of their routine there. The skaters I met personally were all nice and very friendly. I wasn’t able to get many photos, unfortunately, but I’ve included a few below.
It was a terrific weekend, and I’m already thinking about next year’s Skate America. It’s a great competition to attend because all-event ticket prices are much cheaper than Nationals or Worlds, but you still get to see many of the best American skaters and top international stars as well. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t gone before.
So that’s it for my coverage from Milwaukee. Until next year, hopefully! 🙂