February tourism hoisted by skating figures

Caydee Denney, 18, and John Coughlin, 26, won a gold medal in pairs at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championship Jan. 29. The couple rallied from third place to win and had a total score of 189.70 points. They only began training together in May. They will represent Team USA at the World Championships in Nice, France on March 26.

Once again, Colorado Springs will be in the international sports spotlight when more than 100 of the world’s best figure skaters descend on the city next week for the 2012 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

Figure skaters from 17 countries are sure to wow the crowd at Colorado Springs World Arena with difficult tricks and the event is expected to more than dazzle the economic bottom line at area hotels with an anticipated 1,800 room nights sold for the six-day event.

“That is a great piece of business in February,” said Bob Dunlop, U.S. Figure Skating senior events director.

Colorado Springs will flex its storied figure-skating history when it hosts the championship event Feb. 7-12, which is considered a prelude to the World Championships in March. Colorado Springs and the Broadmoor Skating Club have produced six national championships and five world champion figure skaters.

“I hope that the community knows there is a long history of figure skating here,” said David Raith, U.S. Figure Skating executive director. “An event like Four Continents gives us an opportunity to refresh and remind everyone of our skating history.”

Its skating history that helped bring the Four Continents games to the Springs, Dunlop said. The Four Continents Figure Skating Championships is an annual competition, which got started in 1999. Skaters compete in the categories of men’s singles, ladies singles, pairs and ice dancing. The international skating community is well aware of the World Arena and skaters feel comfortable in the 8,000-seat venue, at 3185 Venetucci Blvd., Dunlop said.

The 2011 event was held in Taiwan. Colorado Springs last hosted the event in 2007.

“The indirect impact to the community is the awareness to Colorado Springs,” Dunlop said. “We will have international television coverage from Japan, Korea and Canada.”

Many people know the World Arena as the home of Colorado College hockey team. But, next week the rink will be transformed, Dunlop said. The protective glass will come down, the ice will be repainted, sans the Tiger’s logo and sponsors, and new sponsor boards will go up.

“The fit is really good,” Dunlop said. “It’s a compact logistical plan with hotels surrounding the arena.”

Spectators will have a chance to see local skaters and 2012 U.S. pairs champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, who are coming fresh off their title win at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last weekend in California. Also on the ice will be 2011 World Champion Patrick Chan, a Canadian skater who trains in Colorado Springs.

“We really think the community has an opportunity to see something special,” Dunlop said.

Cheyenne Mountain Resort is among the host hotels getting a winter boost from the skating event, said John Branciforte, Cheyenne Mountain Resort director of sales and marketing.

“It’s one of the busiest weeks in the first quarter,” he said. “It’s a world-recognized event — it gives us a large volume of people over a seven-day window — we’ll be sold out that week.”

Ice skating and Colorado Springs have been synonymous since the 1930s when an outdoor arena was transformed into an ice palace at The Broadmoor.

“Colorado Springs became a Mecca for figure skating,” Raith said. “It was one of the few ice arenas open all year around.”

Great facilities led to great coaches, Raith said. And, then great coaches brought in great athletes — Jeremy Abbott and Peggy Fleming to name a few. In 1979, U.S. Figure Skating, the national governing body for the sport, moved its headquarters to Colorado Springs.

The ice rink moved from The Broadmoor to the new World Arena in 1994 but the skating legacy continued, Raith said. For example, Rachael Flatt, the 2010 U.S. National Figure Skating Champion, trained at the arena every day.

“It’s very important to the community from a skating perspective,” Raith said. “Our best athletes will be in the Springs.”