Knoxville skating rink sees increase during Olympics

(WBIR-Knoxville) The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics is helping boost business at a West Knoxville skating rink.

According to the Ice Chalet, attendance has doubled, and in some cases, tripled this winter.

Attendance at public sessions is 200% above normal. There is an even greater increase for beginner skater enrollment which is up 300%.

"Well everybody wants to be the next Michelle Kwan. So we definitely get a lot of new kids enrolling in classes and a lot of people come to public sessions in general," said Ella Hulsey, with the Ice Chalet.

Steve McCurry was a skate guard when the Ice Chalet opened in 1962. His two granddaughters now take lessons at the rink.

"People get interested in it and they come try it out and our skating school grows in numbers. A lot of those hang on and stick with it," McCurry said.

For the first time in at least 50 years, if not ever, the Ice Chalet will stay open in April and May. Normally it closes during those months, but larger numbers have resulted in a higher demand for skating time.

"They see girls and guys who are older than them and they really look up to them and they say, 'I want to be Gracie Gold or Jason Brown or whoever', and so then they take lessons which is great," said Beth Anderson, a long-time figure skater.

The Olympic games can also inspire more established figure skaters. Jonathan Shelton started skating seven years ago, at the age of 5.

"I'd like to be a skater in the Olympics," he said.

Besides figure skating, the Ice Chalet hosts hockey and curling.


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