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              The '98 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at
         Philadelphia's CoreStates Center drew 13,972 yesterday and a
         sellout of 19,082 for the women's finals Saturday night,
         bringing the total to 115,004 for the entire competition,
         according to Diane Pucin of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.  The
         event topped the '97 nationals in Nashville, which drew
         103,578 and the 114,444 attendance record set at the '96
         nationals in San Jose.  USFSA Exec Dir Jerry Lace said that
         his organization "was pleased with the week."  Pucin reports
         that though attendance was good, the women's short program
         took place Thursday at noon, so "only" 6,832 were there for
         Michelle Kwan's performance that received seven perfect
         scores (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/12).  In Houston, Bill
         Sullivan: "A made-for-TV schedule, which dumped the men's
         competition into less desirable midweek slots, didn't help
         the live gate.  Nor did ticket prices that ranged from $20
         to $50 for the ladies short program and $35 to $75 for the
         men's free skate. ... [Y]ou wonder if a little better
         scheduling and a bit more sanity in pricing might not make
         for a better in-house event overall" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE,
         1/11).  In L.A., Mike Penner wrote that the CoreStates
         Center "was at one-third capacity -- or less -- for most
         weekday sessions," but the local newspapers "cannot be
         blamed for failing to get out the word.  The Daily News and
         the Inquirer accorded the championships the kind of blanket
         coverage befitting a Final Four" (L.A. TIMES, 1/11).
              FIRST RATE: ABC drew a 12.9 overnight rating for
         Saturday's broadcast, which featured live coverage of the
         ladies free skate.  Nearly 13 million households tuned in to
         all or part of the telecast, and close to 15 million watched
         the final hour.  The rating "was almost double" the 7.2
         earned by last year's telecast of the final night of
         competition (Rachel Blount, Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/12).

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