Kent businesses, ShoWare hope Skate America has big impact

Jeremy Abbott and other top skaters will compete Oct. 19-21 at Skate America at the ShoWare Center in Kent. - COURTESY PHOTO
Jeremy Abbott and other top skaters will compete Oct. 19-21 at Skate America at the ShoWare Center in Kent.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

Downtown businesses, Kent Station and the ShoWare Center each hope to capitalize on the anticipated large crowds Hilton HHonors Skate America brings to the city.

The 2012 International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series Oct. 19-21 at the ShoWare will draw 52 of the top international skaters and early projections of up to 15,000 fans.

"We see 15,000 people coming to Kent as huge to our businesses," said Barb Smith, executive director of the Kent Downtown Partnership (KDP). "It could be a huge financial boost."

The KDP is a nonprofit group that helps promote downtown businesses. Smith sees Skate America as a great opportunity to pump up the downtown area.

"Even if it's 10,000 people it'll be huge," Smith said. "That's why we've put in the time and effort in ways to draw attention to downtown. People will go to Kent Station. We want to get them to the historic district for a piece of the action."

The KDP has helped put up banners and posters around town to promote Skate America. It will offer downtown walking tours as well as business coupon books to visitors.

Volunteers will help the downtown group clean up streets on Oct. 13. Two Skate America tickets will be given away through a drawing to someone who helps with the clean up. The group also will give away tickets to the downtown business with the best window display to promote the figure skating competition.

The ShoWare Center will have a capacity of 3,940 for each session of the competition. Many of the arena's 6,000-seat capacity will be taken up for production purposes. NBC Sports will broadcast coverage on Oct. 21.

Tim Higgins, ShoWare general manager, projected that each of the five sessions over three days will sell out.

"We are expecting a sellout for the sessions," Higgins said last week.

A scan of available tickets early this week on the ShoWare website showed each session about half sold with about 2,000 tickets available per session.

Higgins said it's a great opportunity to see top-notch figure skating competitors.

"Fans will be able to see Olympic-caliber skaters and not have to pay Olympic prices," he said.

Tickets are $40, $25 and $15 per session. The sessions run at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19; 12:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 and 11:45 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21.

ShoWare officials hope the event does well so the city-owned arena can attract even more sporting events.

U.S. Figure Skating picked Kent for the site last spring after plans to hold the competition at a Michigan venue fell through. Steve Disson, president of Virginia-based Disson Skating, produced “Pandora Unforgettable Moments of Love on Ice” show Jan. 26 at the ShoWare and recommended the arena to U.S. Figure Skating officials.

"Looking back on how we got this event was because of the success of the Pandora ice skating event," Higgins said. "Through that even and word of mouth we were able to land this event. Success breeds success."

John Hinds, Kent Station general manager, hopes Skate America draws many fans who will cross the street to eat at Kent Station restaurants.

"It will bring in people from Kent, the region and from around the world," Hinds said. "We anticipate it will be a positive impact. There will be a lot of breaks between sessions and when shows end and before they begin we'll see an increase in traffic, especially for our restaurants."

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