The Skating Club of Boston Breaks New Ground

Despite cold and windy weather, the mood was festive Monday at the Skating Club of Boston’s groundbreaking ceremony for their new three-rink facility in Norwood, MA. It was a long-anticipated day, as planning for the new rink complex first started some 20 years ago. Now, construction will commence on what is intended to be a state-of-the-art facility, to open in summer 2020.

It’s been quite a journey to this point. Founded in 1912, the Skating Club of Boston is one of the oldest and most storied figure skating clubs in the United States. The Club has been home to many famous skaters during its long history, including Dick Button, Tenley Albright, Paul Wylie, Nancy Kerrigan, and, more recently, Ross Miner, Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir, and Christina Gao.

1240 Soldiers Field Road: The rink where it happened

For 80 years, the Skating Club of Boston’s home rink has been 1240 Soldiers Field Road in Boston. It’s a central spot, where the city of Boston converges with nearby cities Cambridge, Watertown, and Brookline. The location at 1240 Soldiers Field has always been important for the Club. Its centrality helped make the Club a viable training choice for skaters all around the greater Boston area. Also, the Skating Club of Boston owned the rink at 1240 Soldiers Field, giving them full control over the ice. Few skating clubs enjoy such a privilege, as they typically do not own their premises.

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The rink at 1240 Soldiers Field Road in Boston

The famous rink at 1240 Soldiers Field first opened on New Year’s Day, 1939. Its classic “quonset hut” design bestowed a distinctive and memorable look. Generations of skaters learned how to skate and trained at the facility. Some of those skaters reached the highest pinnacles of the sport.

But as the 21st century began, the limitations of the aging building began to tell. The Club now has well over 600 members–and only one ice surface to accommodate them all. Further, the 80-year-old building lacks many of the amenities that newer ice rinks can offer. In the late 1990s, the Club’s officers determined that future growth would require a new and larger facility. They launched “The Next 100 Years” initiative to secure a new venue to help the Club expand and prepare for its second century. Eventually, this project led to Norwood, MA, and Monday’s groundbreaking event.

New era in Norwood

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility featured several prominent speakers, including 1956 Olympic champion Tenley Albright (one of the Club’s most famous and decorated members), 1984 Olympic Champion Scott Hamilton, and officials from the Skating Club of Boston and the city of Norwood. Also in attendance were many former skaters who now coach or choreograph at the Club, including Evgenia Shishkova & Vadim Naumov, Simon Shnapir, Alexandria (Shaughnessy) Ronzio, and Adam Blake.

Joseph Blount, president of the Skating Club of Boston, explained how the Club came to Norwood, a suburb about 20 miles southwest of Boston.

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Skating Club of Boston President Joseph Blount

“In the 20 years we’ve been working on it, we looked at about 35 properties, all total,” Blount said. “In Boston, we worked with the Boston planning board. We worked with Boston city officials.” However, despite these efforts, the Club could not find an appropriate and affordable  location in Boston itself.

“The land was just so costly [in Boston],” Blount explained. “It’s $10 million per acre. And we needed a minimum of 10 acres. Financially, we couldn’t afford to stay in Boston, because land was so expensive.”

Instead, the Skating Club of Boston bought a 36-acre parcel of land at 750 University Avenue in Norwood for $7.1 million total. The sale closed in March.

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The Skating Club’s new location in Norwood (circled)

Blount acknowledged that the decision to leave Boston was not easy. “There were so many people ingrained in the Boston area. They thought: ‘Because it’s the Skating Club of Boston, doesn’t it need to be there?’ But the Detroit Skating Club is thirty miles outside the town of Detroit,” Blount pointed out. “I think our members are coming around to: This is the best we can do, for the amount of money we can afford. We should be spending money on the skaters, helping them become what they want to be.”

The Club’s existing rink at 1240 Soldiers Field Road has now been sold. However, the Club will stay on at the property for the time being, leasing it back from the new owners, until the Norwood facility opens in summer 2020. At that point, all Club operations and personnel will move to Norwood.

In her speech at the event, Tenley Albright acknowledged the emotional pull and history of 1240 Soldiers Field Road–the rink where she trained for her Olympic title–but looked forward to the club’s future in Norwood. “I just couldn’t picture the Skating Club not being on Soldiers Field Road. But today, I’ve changed my mind,” she said, to cheers from the crowd. “Just think, Ice Chips [the Club’s annual show] will be here! And Ice Chips was what got me interested in skating.”

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Scott Hamilton, Tenley Albright, and Benjamin T. Wright

Although the Skating Club will lose its geographical tie to the city of Boston, the new location is large enough to build the modern, truly state-of-the-art facility that it lacked in Boston. The plans for the new Norwood location are impressive indeed.

The new facility will feature three rinks–one Olympic-sized and two NHL-size. The Olympic-sized rink, or Performance Center, will include arena seating for 2,500 people, allowing the Club to host competitions and shows at the site. There is also room to add a fourth rink in the future, if necessary.

In addition to the new rinks, the facility will include, seemingly, just about everything skaters and coaches could possibly need: Locker rooms; a dance practice room; a lobby cafe; a library; lounge areas; conference rooms; and a special coaches’ suite with lounge area, work stations, and private locker rooms.

Additionally, the Skating Club is partnering with the Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention to host a special center at the new facility dedicated to developing skaters’ fitness and avoiding injury. The center will include a fully equipped off-ice training room, where skaters can work out under the supervision of certified trainers, as well as private offices for physical therapy, injury treatment, and nutritional counseling.

Two rinks in the new facility will be completely dedicated to figure skating. The third rink will be shared with local hockey teams (in season).

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A rendering of the Performance Center at the new facility (with Olympic-size rink)

Once the new facility is open, the Skating Club expects to host many competitions and shows in the Olympic-sized arena, including New England Regionals and Eastern Sectionals. Erique L’Heureux, development and marketing coordinator for the new facility, said that the Club is also exploring hosting some synchronized skating and/or theatre on ice events at the new location.

And special guest speaker Scott Hamilton announced that the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation will present a special S8 to Elimin8 Cancer fundraiser show as part of the new facility’s official grand opening festivities in December 2020.

Hamilton spoke of his connections with the Club. “All my family is from the Boston area. We’d come to Boston for all the Christmas holidays. And then, once I started skating, to go to the Skating Club of Boston was hallowed ground,” he said. “It’s hallowed ground. And when I look at what is going to be a magnificent, state-of-the-art facility that’s going to take the legacy of the Skating Club of Boston and bring it into the future …. Today is a day of nostalgia; it’s a day of forward thinking; it’s a day of excitement about the promise of what will be.”

The prospects of the Skating Club of Boston look bright, with the groundbreaking of their brand-new facility for the future.

Note:  To learn more about the Skating Club of Boston’s new facility, visit the project’s web site: https://thenext100years.org/.

Note:  If you’re enjoying the articles on The Divine Sport, please like our Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/adivinesport. Or follow us on Twitter to get updates of new posts:  @clairecloutier.

 

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Fall 2018 Update

Hi everyone! I wanted to update you on my plans for fall 2018. The season has started, Skate America has come & gone, but there’s been no pairs review of the event on A Divine Sport. Why? Well … two reasons: 1) In the aftermath of Skate America, I was too busy preparing for my trip to Skate Canada this week (more on that in a minute) to write about the action in Everett; and 2) I’ve decided to take a little break this fall from writing pairs reviews. I still love pairs as much as ever, and I’m still watching and following all the competitions closely. But after 4 years of doing pairs reviews, I just felt like I needed a bit of a rest. I may get back to writing pairs reviews for the second half of the Grand Prix series. If not then, I’ll probably get back to it later in the season for Nationals and the major championships. We’ll see.

The good news is that, even though I’m not doing reviews right now, I am going to Skate Canada this week, covering the event for another pairs/dance web site, Two for the Ice. So you can look there for some of my coverage. For the next few days, I’ll be tweeting from the Two for the Ice Twitter account:  @twofortheice. Follow there for posts from Skate Canada in Laval.

That’s all for now. Thanks to everyone who’s read my pairs reviews the last few years! I really appreciate it! And I hope to get back to them soon!

Remembering Denis Ten 1993-2018

A couple days ago, I was reminded again of all that we lost on July 19, when Denis Ten was killed in Kazakhstan.

Russian skater Sergei Voronov announced that Denis had choreographed his new short program. Usually I love it when gifted skaters try their hand at choreography; it’s wonderful to think of their artistry carrying on, even after they’re no longer skating. But this …. To know that Denis Ten’s first year as a choreographer was also his last, just left me with an ache inside. Continue reading “Remembering Denis Ten 1993-2018”

A Perfect Program: Patrick Chan’s Chopin LP

Skating fans are pretty lucky. Every season, there are many good,  and often great, programs to enjoy. Once in while, a perfect program happens. It’s a rare and special thing: When the right piece of music and the right choreography all come together at a particular moment in a skater’s career. When it happens, the program becomes part of the skater’s success, even part of their public identity sometimes. A perfect program may become iconic; a part of skating history. Continue reading “A Perfect Program: Patrick Chan’s Chopin LP”

Skate America 2015: Lots of Skater-spotting & Not Much Sleep

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! 🙂

Danny O'Shea taking pictures with fans at the arena
Danny O’Shea posing for a photo with a fan
Gracie Gold talking with fans after practice
Gracie Gold talking with fans after practice
Cannuscio/McManus at practice
Cannuscio/McManus at practice
Hawayek/Baker practicing their FD
Hawayek/Baker practicing their FD
Han Yan talks with fans near the hotel
Han Yan talks with fans near the hotel
Denis Ten on his way back to the hotel
Denis Ten on his way back to the hotel
Warmup for the dance final
Warmup for the dance final

Before the Music Starts

Just what the world needs, right? . . . Another figure skating web site. And yet, the truly obsessed among us know there can never be too many (good) figure skating sites, just like there can never be too much figure skating.

I have been watching figure skating, more or less obsessively, since 1991. You’d think after 25 years, I’d be bored. But I’m not! For whatever reason, my love of skating continues to grow, year by year. There’s always something new happening, always more to learn. And, I find, talking and writing about skating is almost as much fun as watching it. Hence, this site. I hope that other people who also love skating will enjoy reading it from time to time. And, I hope that I can keep it updated somewhat regularly! I probably won’t ever be able to provide as much content as some of the figure skating writers whom I admire and enjoy reading. But, my goal is that, when I do have something to say, I’ll try to share it here.

My perspective on figure skating is an observer’s perspective. I do skate myself–I’ve taken lessons, both as a child and an adult, and have passed my first USFSA free skating and moves-in-the-field tests. But I’m not a coach or a competitor or a choreographer or an expert. Yet, it’s been my experience over the years that observers and fans often have a surprising and impressive amount of knowledge and insight into this sport. So I am rather proud, actually, to speak from that perspective.