A high-profile skating delegation coming to Spokane this week is expected to announce the Lilac City again will host a major figure skating event: the first-ever Team Challenge Cup.
The U.S. Figure Skating delegation arriving Wednesday will include 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi, 2014 U.S. champion and Olympian Gracie Gold and several skating officials.
“To have this delegation coming in is about as good an indication as you could possibly get that it’s a go,” said Barb Beddor, vice president of Star USA, which has promoted other skating events. “I can’t imagine them sending them here and not having good news.”
The Team Challenge Cup will include 42 of the best figure skaters in the world on three teams. The teams will combine skaters from the U.S. and Canada versus a team from Asia and another from Europe.
The competition would be held April 22-24 at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
While the competition won’t produce a world champion or qualify athletes for the Olympics, organizer Toby Steward said the competition is expected to be the start of an event similar to the Ryder Cup for golf.
“One reason we are so excited is because, for us, it’s like hosting Super Bowl I,” Steward said. “When we get gray and old, we think this event will still be going strong and Spokane hosted the first one. This is a phenomenal opportunity to host this.”
Spokane first hosted a major skating event with the 2002 Skate America, which broke that event’s attendance record.
U.S. Figure Skating selected Spokane for the 2007 and 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and both events again broke attendance records. The record 158,700 fans from 2010 continues to stand, Steward said.
The previous skating events have been an economic boon to Spokane. The 2010 championship’s economic impact to the region was $20.9 million, according to a study by Eastern Washington University’s Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis. State and local taxes attributable to the event were estimated to be $2.1 million, the study said.
“We don’t take anything for granted until we have the signature on the agreement,” Steward said. “But we are thrilled and excited.”
The 2014 Olympics first introduced the team skating competition. Steward said the closest example would be team gymnastics, where teams are scored based on the ability of individual performances.
The 2007 and 2010 events in Spokane featured the best skaters in the country.
“But these are the best 42 skaters in the world,” Steward said. “You are going to see some really fast-paced, exciting competition.”
A news conference with the delegation is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. Wednesday at the Spokane Convention Center.
The expected announcement would be a break from past site awards. Both Beddor and Steward said typically they would gather about 300 people in a room and take a phone call that delivered the news.
In 2009, they learned they lost a bid for the skating championships to Los Angeles.
“That would be one of the worst jokes in history: Fly the legend Kristi Yamaguchi in to tell us ‘No,’ ” Steward said. “There is no bronze or silver medal in this thing. Either you win or you don’t.”
As the deadline for the bid loomed Sept. 11, Avista Utilities announced it would be the presenting sponsor for the event.
“We believe Spokane will be the perfect city to host this exciting new International competition,” Dennis Vermillion, Avista’s senior vice president, said in a news release.
Both Beddor and Steward credited that move as one of the reasons they expect to host the event.
“We feel Avista was the hero in this thing,” Steward said. “They really put an exclamation point on our bid.”
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