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Skate America in Kent draws 'good' attendance of 13,172 fans
Skate America turned out to be a hit at the ShoWare Center in Kent as 13,172 fans attended the three-day event.
The opening competition of the 2012 International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series drew the thousands of fans to its five sessions last Friday through Sunday.
“It was a great week in Kent with good attendance and supportive crowds over the three days of competition," said David Raith, U.S. Figure Skating executive director, in an email. "ShoWare Center provided us an intimate setting in a major market environment that worked well for our event and allowed an outstanding fan experience.”
The Saturday evening session drew the largest crowd with 2,930 fans. That's under the ShoWare capacity of 3,940 for the event. But the overall numbers were larger than the 9,250 fans Skate America drew last year in Ontario, Calif., and the 12,800 fans in 2010 in Portland, Ore., according to estimated attendance figures compiled by Ice Skating International.
"The numbers were great in comparison to the last three years of their events," said Tim Higgins, ShoWare Center general manager. "We were in the mix. They were pleased with the attendance."
Skate America drew 14,100 in 2009 in Lake Placid, N.Y., after a huge turnout of 39,000 in 2008 in Everett.
But the numbers and overall experience by Skate America in Kent were strong enough to keep ShoWare Center on the map for the annual figure skating competition.
"Skate America had a great experience and expressed a future interest in Kent," Higgins said.
A return of the event to ShoWare would be a few years down the road, however, as Skate America rotates competition through a variety of cities, Higgins said.
"It was a great event," Higgins said. "We had a lot of support from the city, the Kent Downtown Partnership and the Kent Chamber that contributed to the success of the event."
John Hinds, Kent Station general manager, said Skate America had a similar impact to restaurants at the mall as Disney on Ice or the Ringling Bros. circus events that come to town.
"There's no doubt the restaurants had a little bump but there was not an impact on the rest of the retailers," Hinds said.
Barb Smith, executive director of the Kent Downtown Partnership (KDP), said she didn't have any hard numbers as far as the financial impact on downtown businesses.
"But I was downtown in the afternoon (last) Friday and the downtown was busy," she said. "There was not a lot of parking and I saw people I didn't recognize walking around. I don't know if they opened up their wallets yet or not."
Smith said people gave positive feedback about the city at an information booth at the ShoWare.
"The people at the show were very impressed with Kent and really enjoyed themselves," Smith said.
It did surprise Smith that Skate America didn't draw sellout crowds.
"It's weird, I can't figure that out," she said. "With Skate America (as a title), I don't think people know what that is. If they knew it featured Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists, they would be there."
The winners were American Ashley Wagner in ladies; Japan's Takahiko Kozuka in mens; Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White in ice dancing; and reigning World silver medalists Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, of Russia, in pairs.
Skate America Attendance
(ShoWare capacity 3,940)
• Friday 2,198
• Saturday afternoon 2,315
• Saturday evening 2,930
• Sunday afternoon 2,826
• Sunday evening 2,903
• Total attendance 13,172