This blog is a collection of my thoughts and experiences from ten years as a skate dad. For those of you sitting with your jackets in the bleachers, first I salute you, but second I want to give you an honest sense of what you are in for and what to expect. Ice skating is both a trying and a glorious sport, but it doesn't happen without the special group of folks who cheer, support, and console the participants. This is dedicated to you.
Saturday, April 26, 2014
The expense of figure skating produces some unique personality oddities. As a parent you should be well advised that skating is one of the more expensive sports, see for example this comparison, or for a real eye opener this PDF from a decade ago. Yes lessons, coaching, skates, costumes, travel, and ice fees are all pricey, but the sport's pathology goes well beyond that. The truly costly part of figure skating rests upon the purely implied sanctuary of the facilities: constructing and subsequently cooling and dehumidifying an ice rink. Building a new dual-sheet rink costs upward of five million dollars; add in debt service and monthly energy costs (not to mention the payroll and insurance) and. . . well there you go.
Since building and operating a rink is so expensive (compared to facilities for other sports) rinks are relatively few and far between. If my kid played little league baseball how many teams could she join here in metro L.A.? Maybe 400. Plus every high school and most parks have baseball diamonds. But figure skating? We can drive to maybe eight rinks, max.
To draw enough customers to recoup their costs rinks must disperse geographically where they can attract a clientele base that isn't already committed to another nearby locale. Now think of what this implies for the culture of the sport. Since a skater has so few local coaches to choose from, every individual coach has considerable power, and they can get away with charging less competitive fees. At the same time since so few new positions open, obtaining a coaching job is incredibly difficult. That means unless your kid is good enough to skate nationally it's unlikely that she'll ever make a decent living from the sport. (Well to be honest this holds true for nearly all sports, I suppose).
Since rinks are far apart I suspect that acquiring judges for competitions becomes quite a chore; it wouldn't surprise me if the availability of judges restricts the quantity of sanctioned events that a rink can conduct.
All these peculiarities have to do with the expense of maintaining an ice rink. Still though figure skaters are like orchids in a forest: although one of the more elegantly colorful parts of the foliage, they don't play an exceedingly large part in the biome's carbon cycle. Skaters scarcely shoulder much of this implied operating burden: the rink managers I've chatted with say that hockey brings in about 85% of a rink's revenue. Without hockey there likely would not be any indoor rink figure skating at all.