January 5, 1998 in Nation/World

Pros Put Local Rinks In An Ice Position Skating Stars Are Popular

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Eagles Ice-A-Rena folks likely will be pleased this week. That, or they’ll go insane and start running people over with the Zamboni.

“The attendance sure picks up after those Discover Card things come to town,” shrugged rink employee Paul Massie, referring to the latest of a string of professional ice skaters to hit the Arena.

There’s a new learn-to-skate class starting Wednesday, and Massie said he expects about 100 kids to show up, fumbling and falling about the ice. That’s as many as four times the number of kids who normally show up.

“We’re staffing extra for it. That’s how it was last year when they came here.”

“They” are the Discover Stars on Ice, who performed Sunday night at the Spokane Arena. A half hour before show time, about 9,000 tickets had been sold. And people were streaming in by the hundreds.

It’s the latest flurry in Spokane’s ongoing ice storm of a gentler sort: Campbell’s Soups Tour of World Figure Skating Champions performed last summer. Disney on Ice performed here in December. Champions on Ice is scheduled for June.

This gets kids excited. After all, if Pocahontas thinks it’s cool - well, there you go.

And kids will want to try it themselves. To that end, there’s a new two-sheet rink planned for Mirabeau Point in the Valley. It’s supposed to open this summer.

What’s happening? It could be that girl-next-door-gone-bad Tonya Harding robbed figure skating of its pretensions.

Or it could be that the flurry of prime-time televised skating specials has mesmerized knee-highs the same way the Power Rangers do.

“I took seven calls today. If I were to ask those kids, they’d have probably seen that ‘Battle of the Sexes’ thing on Fox,” Massie said, referring to a recent Channel 28 show.

Whatever. It worked Sunday. The line at the Arena stretched from its front door to the parking lot. It was nearly as wide as it was long. And a second tentacle of fans coiled around the length of the front of the building.

A half-dozen tour buses unloaded out-of-towners. Frank and Margaret Cyr from Florence, Mont., were among them. This Discover deal was the eighth ice show they’ve seen in Spokane - and the gray-haired couple was dressed to the hilt for it.

And there were kids. Plenty. Christina Wiese, 8, and 10-year-old sister Jessica stood huddled in line next to Mom and Dad.

“We’ve taken them to ‘Beauty and the Beast’ on ice, and we took them to Discover a couple years ago,” said their mother, Karin Wiese. She’s been a skating fan forever. But when she was growing up in Deer Park, there was no place to take lessons. The only place to skate was the pond.

Now Christina has taken lessons and skates often. Does she have a favorite axle, favorite jump?

“I like, um… I dunno. I mostly like having free time.”

Grandmother Deborah Friedlander led the way through the jerking, hurrying line, followed by five grandkids and two daughters. They all frequent the rinks.

“And we’re all Scott Hamilton or Kristi Yamaguchi when we’re skating,” she said.

“Just to see them here, geez… it’s just a huge treat for the kids.”

Hamilton, Yamaguchi and Katarina Witt all performed - a dance of heroes across a frozen stage.

Yamaguchi was a favorite for many. Including Heather Stafford, 13.

“She ice skates, and very well,” boasted her grandmother, Betty Stafford. Heather just smiled, shivered, looked embarrassed.

A neighbor gave her a pair of skates three years ago and it’s been practices and lessons and competitions ever since.

“She does about three different jumps,” Grandma continued. “I can’t hardly tell the difference in them. But you can tell if you’re the skater.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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