SBJ/19980525/This Week's Issue

Seven cities seek to host the next Tara and Michelle

Local skating clubs in seven Western U.S. cities have leapt into the competition to host what promises to be the hottest U.S. Figure Skating Championships in decades — the 2002 event.

Figure skating clubs in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Las Vegas, Phoenix and the Oakland-Berkeley area have submitted letters of intent to host the January 2002 event, which will be held a month before the Olympics, said Paul Pawlaczyk, events coordinator for the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

"I would say this is probably the biggest U.S. Championships since 1980 because the Olympics are going to be held in the U.S. [in Salt Lake City in 2002]," Pawlaczyk said. "The last time the [Winter] Olympics were held in the U.S. was 1980 in Lake Placid."

The placings in the 2002 championships will "probably be the biggest factor" determining which skaters go to Salt Lake City a month later, he said.

The U.S. Championships are held every year and the 10-day event brings positive economic benefits to the host city even in non-Olympic years, Pawlaczyk said. For example, the 1997 Championships generated $10 million in economic benefits and created 292 jobs in the host city of Nashville, according to a study by Middle Tennessee State University's Business and Economic Research Center.

Pawlaczyk said the competition among cities is stronger than usual for the 2002 Games because of the potential media exposure. Bids are due from the seven cities on July 1, he said. Three finalists will be chosen this summer and a decision will be made this fall.

David Simon, president of the Los Angeles Sports Council, noted that the USFSA rotates the championships every year by region and that it happened to be the West's turn in 2002. Simon's group is working with the All Year Figure Skating Club on a bid to hold the championships at either the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim or the Staples Center, which is under construction in downtown Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Kathy Spicuzza, president of the Las Vegas Figure Skating Club, said she is working with a sports marketing group on a bid, with the MGM Grand and the Thomas & Mack Center as sites.

"It would be a phenomenal coup if we were to get the [2002] Nationals here in Las Vegas," Spicuzza said. "The media, the revenues it would bring to the city would just be wonderful."

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