January 27, 2007 in City

In the spotlight

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Photosby Jed Conklin photo

Tracy Wilson and Kurt Browning do a live broadcast for ESPN/ABC on Thursday in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
(Full-size photo)

Most national media coverage of the figure skating championships deals with what happens on the ice.

But the focus occasionally strays to Spokane itself, a place described in recent press reports as “a river city near the Idaho border,” “exuberant and charming” and “The Little Engine That Could.”

Most prominently, televised coverage of the event on ABC and ESPN has included brief images of Spokane at night and the Spokane Falls, among other local scenes. In the coming days, video of skiers at Mt. Spokane is likely to show up on ABC’s broadcast.

“We always try to give a sense of place in our broadcast – where we are, what the town or city is all about,” said Pat Lowry, coordinating producer for figure skating for ABC and ESPN.

Media accounts of the figure skating championships have repeatedly stressed Spokane’s “surprisingly” large turnouts for events and lauded the city’s welcoming atmosphere. Like many skating writers, USA Today columnist Christine Brennan placed it in the context of an overall decline in interest in figure skating.

“But if a skater falls in Spokane, will anyone notice?” wrote Brennan in a column Tuesday. “It’s rare a city this small – exuberant and charming though it might be – hosts the nationals. … But this is skating’s new reality. Being center stage in an excited midsized town is better than being lost in the shuffle of a major metropolis.”

In a piece this week in Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer that was sure to make the hearts of civic boosters flutter, Spokane’s ability to attract the skating championships was placed into a context of overall civic improvement.

“As snow drifts onto new downtown rooftops, wraps Riverfront Park in white and forms icicles above Spokane Falls, there are signs everywhere that the hub of the Inland Empire is on a roll. The famed, historic Davenport Hotel has been grandly restored by owners who also opened a hip new hotel across the street. Downtown vacancy rates have plummeted, replaced by new businesses, condos and retailers. Tourists and locals alike flock to classy new restaurants and bars.”

On Friday morning, the Seattle Times’ Ron Judd wrote: “Spokane, by all accounts, has done a bang-up job of holding the nationals, and media types from around the country have offered praise for the Spokane Arena and the city, which has rallied around the event.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Philip Hersh wrote, “At a time when the sport needs a boost, it is getting it from Spokane.”


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