Feature Article - July/August 2006
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Adults on Ice

Grow your programming by appealing to grownups

By Stacy St. Clair



Help Wanted

Looking for a little assistance getting your programs up and running? Finding help is easier than you think.

The athletic associations that govern ice sports (and, in turn, produce Olympic heroes) are eager to aid in the development of new programs because those efforts ultimately build a stronger winter-sports tradition.

The assistance varies from sport to sport and includes everything from monetary grants to technical advice to moral support.

Here's a rundown of the groups willing to help facility managers become ice kings.

HOCKEY AND FIGURE SKATING

U.S. Hockey and the United States Figure Skating Association created a joint venture six years ago aimed at fostering "the development, growth and success" of rinks throughout the country.

The partnership, Serving the American Rinks (STAR), offers education, training and information on new resources. Members, who include rink managers and industry vendors, receive weekly e-mails, four industry publications and other discounts.

Its experts are so highly regarded, the Torino Organizing Committee enlisted the help of two STAR leaders to install and maintain all of the hockey surfaces at the XX Winter Games in Italy.

On this side of the Atlantic, STAR provides information on how to make arenas more efficient and improve safety features. More than 1,200 industry professionals have attended the organization's training programs.

The organization also helps groups and individuals plan new facilities. It has programs and initiatives to help inline sports, as well.

Rinks can join STAR for $225 annually, while individuals can register for $50. More than 600 rinks, ice professionals and industry vendors already belong.

For a membership application, send an e-mail to STARrinks@usahockey.org.

SPEEDSKATING

Speedskating long has been the forgotten middle child among bladed ice sports. Not as graceful as figure skating or as mainstream as hockey, speedskaters historically zipped into the spotlight every four years and then promptly sped off into the shadows until the next Olympics.

Things are different now. The U.S. team has a powerful presence on the world stage. It has transformed from an activity for suburban kids from the upper Midwest to a popular sport for athletes of all backgrounds.

Some of the sport's top stars are Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick, a Chicago guy and former inline skater from Texas, respectively. The two famously feuded—and won gold medals—in Turin, giving the sports its strongest media magnets since Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair.

In between their bickering, the two proved the sport no longer belongs to kids from Wisconsin and Minnesota. In fact, the sport has become so diverse, a U.S. Speedskating Organization Web site encouraging new members is written in both English and Spanish translations. The site stresses the sport's geographic and ethnic diversity, reminding visitors that it has skaters in southern Florida and that the junior national team coach is from Hawaii.

The organization strives to bring its sport to all corners of the country. And no one benefits more from such willingness than ice-arena managers. The organization does a jaw-dropping amount of legwork to get a new program or class off the ground. It provides managers who call the headquarters with a list of area residents interested in taking speedskating classes. Officials also will work with local inline groups to encourage crossover participation.

There's no shortage on what the association will do: fliers, seminars, moral support. They have a video and PowerPoint presentations for rinks to use as marketing tools. They'll work with local park districts to offer classes and teach clinics and camps during the summer.

But it's most helpful outreach initiative is the skate loan initiative that allows you to lease speed skates until your program gets off the ground.

For more information, call 800-634-4766 or e-mail tryspeedskating@usspeedskating.org.

CURLING

No winter sport seems to see its national coverage skyrocket during the Olympics more than curling. Even better, in 2006 a pizza-parlor owner from Minnesota led the U.S. men's curling team to its first-ever medal.

In the weeks after the Winter Games, the U.S. Curling Association received phone calls from people in all 50 states requesting information on where to play.

Curling enthusiasts and the national association have been marketing the sport much like bowling, an Everyman activity accessible to all skill levels. They promote it as a great couple's sport, an opportunity to get out and have fun without the grueling workout of tennis or the expense of golf.

For more information, contact the U.S. Curling Association at 888-CURLERS or e-mail usacurl@charter.net.