Return of ‘Stars on Ice’ Signs Figure Skating’s Popularity Remains Strong in Boston

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Could he, however?

The question is in the air as ‘Stars on Ice’ hits the ice at the Agganis Arena on Saturday night. This is the first leg of the 36-year-old tour in Boston proper for several years (previously hitting surrounding towns like Worcester and Providence) and, unlike several previous legs, it will be sold out.

Greater Boston remains one of the few areas in the country that can still sell skating events. The sport’s history, which dates back to the founding of the Skating Club of Boston in 1912 and the many dominant skaters who emerged from it, such as Olympic gold medalists Dick Button and Tenley Albright, is a significant reason for the continued popularity sports here. .

Another reason, often overlooked, is Boston’s global citizenship. Students and scholars from Europe and Asia, where the popularity of figure skating has risen rather than declined, find themselves in Boston and maintain their love of the sport there.

“The figure skating market has always been strong in Boston,” said Doug Zeghibe, executive director of the Skating Club of Boston. “I think it speaks to the long history of the sport in Boston. People here don’t need to be educated about figure skating. They already understand it and love skating themselves.

The “Stars on Ice” tour that adds Boston as a stopover is a response to this interest, as are two recent announcements from the International Skating Union and US Figure Skating. Last week, the ISU named Boston one of five finalists to host the 2025 World Figure Skating Championships, following its huge success at TD Garden in 2016.

Days before this announcement, Figure Skating USA awarded October’s Skate America, a Grand Prix event, to Boston’s new skating club in Norwood. It will be the first time the season-opening international meet has been held in eastern Massachusetts in its 43-year history, but it will be the smallest venue the meet has ever seen.

Moving the event to a smaller facility – the skating club has a capacity of 2,000 people – was an intentional choice. At the facility’s grand opening in December, organization officials noted that a focus on figure skating instead of hockey or multiple uses would put it in consideration for high-level competition.

“Now we’re looking at maybe less spectators and more TV,” U.S. Figure Skating president Anne Cammett said in December. “If we have a dense audience, does it look better when you show it on TV? And from a supply and demand perspective, if there are only 2,000 seats, are you commanding a different price? »

The choice was clear: Go smaller, create demand, and do it in a market that will pull through.

Skate America will also mark the start of a Grand Prix season that will most likely take place without Russian skaters due to the ISU ban following the invasion of Ukraine.

The lack of Russian skaters could play a key role in improving the popularity of the sport in the United States. At the World Championships in March, with no competition from Russian skaters, the United States put in its best performance in decades, winning medals in all disciplines for the first time since 1967, including its first pairs championship since 1979.

“I think it gives hope,” said Brandon Frazier, who along with partner Alexa Knierim won the gold medal in pairs and will skate in Saturday’s “Stars on Ice” show. “There was this drought and there is always this evil that people look at our discipline.

“I think Alexa and I have proven that anything is possible. I think our federation and our American pairs have a bright future.

Without the Russians, who may have pushed the technical limits of the sport but questionably, the American skaters will fare better, and with more medals, more attention. And that path to popularity can start in Boston.

“We have amazing memories of the last time we played in Boston, which was at the 2016 World Championships in a completely exhausted TD Garden,” said Madison Chock, defending national ice dance champion and member of the “Stars on Ice”. tour with longtime partner Evan Bates. “We know Boston draws a good crowd.”

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