Skating event adds 4 sponsors

With more than 800 days left before skaters hit the ice, Spokane organizers on Wednesday announced four new corporate sponsors for the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

The competition, to be held from Jan. 21 to Jan. 28, 2007, is expected to draw more than 120,000 spectators and fans. Star USA Inc., a Spokane company, landed the right to organize the national competition by beating out Boston earlier this year.

The principal local sponsor, Washington Trust Bank, has already committed $150,000.

Joining the event as “major sponsors” are Group Health Cooperative, River Park Square, Windermere Real Estate and Avista Corp. Sponsors in that category commit between $50,000 and $200,000 in support, said Barb Beddor, of Star USA.

Beddor, along with her husband Toby Steward, have said they hope to land more major sponsors in the next two years.

In addition to committing $50,000 in support, Group Health has pledged to provide doctors, physical therapists and nursing staff during the competition. “That’s two doctors a day, covering 15 hours of skating each day,” said Dr. Ed Reisman, a Group Health family doctor and the medical director for the skating event.

Local power utility Avista and downtown shopping center River Park Square each pledged $50,000 toward the event. Both said they will provide additional in-kind services.

The five local branches of Windermere Real Estate committed $75,000 toward the event.

“We were involved in backing Toby and Barb when they presented the Olympic wrestling competitions in 1996,” said Cate Moye, owner of the Spokane Valley Windermere office.

“We really gain a lot of energy by giving back to the community,” Moye said. “We felt we needed to make a contribution to bring it here. It’s our way also of saying ‘thank you’ for bringing this event here.”

Wednesday’s press conference at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena included remarks by Chuck Foster, president of U.S. Figure Skating, a nonprofit association that runs skating competitions nationwide. Winners of the Spokane event are eligible to advance to the 2007 world championships.

Based in Duxbury, Mass., Foster said he’s convinced Spokane is the right-sized city to host a successful skating event. “In many cities where this has been held, it took 40 minutes to drive from hotels to the event. Here, people could potentially walk back and forth from their hotels,” Foster said.

He noted advance sales for tickets on the first weekend after the announcement set a record. “That confirms why we placed this event in Spokane. We felt Spokane would get behind this event and support it,” Foster said.

If Spokane sells close to 126,000 tickets, it will set a new record for the skating championships, which have been held annually since 1914.

Steward and Beddor estimate the economic impact of the event will be around $30 million for the community.

Both said it’s too early to estimate how much total corporate support they’ll need to line up. Past skating championships have had budgets as high as $4.5 million.

“We’re not going to let it get that large,” Beddor said. “If you said about half that amount, that might be right.”

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Day after Pepperdine

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