PORTLAND — More than 1,800 figure skaters are expected to descend on the city next week for the 2009 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships.
The four-day event takes place at the Cumberland County Civic Center and will involve 92 synchronized skating teams from throughout the country.
The early March event is a welcome one for Portland, Barbara Whitten of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Portland said. The bureau estimates that the skating championships will deliver a $2 million economic shot in the arm to greater Portland.
“At this time of year,” Whitten said, “these types of activities mean so much for this area.”
More than 3,600 hotel rooms have been booked by people planning to attend the championships, according to Whitten, who is counting on about 10,000 people visiting Portland March 4-7.
“There are not just skaters, but their families, judges, followers of the sport,” she said.
The bureau will set up an information booth at the civic center, where visitors can stop to find out where they can shop and eat. There will also be “welcome bags” for the skaters that will include coupons to area restaurants and shops.
Businesses pitching in include host hotel the Holiday Inn by the Bay and DiMillo’s, both of which will sponsor an opening dinner for U.S. Figure Skating judges and officials; and Maine’s Pantry, contributing bags of gummy lobsters to welcome each skater.
In addition, from Monday, March 2, to Sunday, March 8, more than 1,500 volunteer hours will be filled at five venues, including the civic center, Family Ice Center in
Falmouth, Travis Roy Arena at North Yarmouth Academy in Yarmouth, Portland Ice Arena in Portland, and the MHG Ice Centre in Saco. Volunteers will perform a variety of tasks, including staging, registering teams, supplying hospitality, transporting judges and officials, providing security and taking tickets. Local physicians will also be on-site.
Synchronized skating is the fastest-growing figure skating discipline, characterized by speed, accuracy and intricate formations and transitions performed by teams of eight to 20 athletes. It started nearly 50 years ago, when a group of skaters was organized to perform at University of Michigan ice hockey games in Ann Arbor, Mich. It has since grown into a competitive discipline, with thousands of athletes participating all over the world.
The sport is sanctioned by U.S. Figure Skating, and there are several categories within the competition, from juvenile groups to masters.
The North Atlantic Figure Skating Club, based in Falmouth, is the host club for the event this year, although no one from the club is competing. Some club skaters are, however, performing in the opening ceremonies.
Tickets to individual events are $25 and can be purchased at the civic center box office or online at civiccenter.com. A pass for all events costs $60, and senior citizens, kids and military personnel are eligible for discounts.
For more information and a skating schedule, go to 2009synchronationals.com.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]

synchroskatelogo.JPG(Courtesy U.S. Figure Skating)

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