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U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Organizers Plan for an Encore

January 14, 2002|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Before the last lutz was landed and the last sequin scraped off the ice at Staples Center, organizers of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships were ready to do it again--but on a bigger scale.

Calling last week's event a "big-time" success financially, competitively and logistically, Larry Kriwanek, chairman of the LA2002 organizing committee, said Sunday the group plans to bid for the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships. The bid process is expected to begin next year.

"This local organizing committee is in place and we're experienced now," Kriwanek said, "and we're willing and eager to do it again. I think the skating community understands that L.A. can support an event like this, and I think they'll be willing to come back again in a much shorter time frame than 30 years."

Before this year, the Los Angeles area hadn't hosted the national championships since 1972, when they were staged in Long Beach.

John LeFevre, executive director of the U.S. Figure Skating Assn., indicated his group would be amenable to returning before another 30 years pass.

"Absolutely. It's a wonderful place to have an event," he said. "Everybody's enjoyed it. The hotels were wonderful, everything was wonderful."

Staples Center spokesman Michael Roth said the arena would welcome another major figure skating event.

"We were thrilled with the way the building handled it, and with the attention it brought L.A. and Staples Center," he said. "The U.S. championships is really the type of event we feel Staples Center is worthy of hosting."

LA2002's partnership agreement with Staples Center was reached before the arena opened in 1999. The organizing committee paid Staples Center's out-of-pocket expenses for staging the event, and Staples will receive a portion of the revenue linked to gate receipts. LA2002 keeps the ticket revenue. LA2002 also paid the U.S. Figure Skating Assn. a bid fee of $250,000, half up front and half due after the event.

Kriwanek said he had anticipated a profit of $1 million, which will go to a foundation that will provide grants to Southern California athletes who participate in ice sports. With a record number of tickets distributed for all sessions--125,345 for the competition, plus about 13,000 for Sunday's exhibition--he said the profits could be even higher when the final tallies are completed.

"This is a success for Southern California skating," he said.

In addition to being a financial success, the championships were a dramatic triumph.

With Olympic berths at stake, the tension that usually accompanies the national championship was magnified, and the prominent parts played by local skaters gave the crowd strong emotional involvement. Torrance native Michelle Kwan rebounded from an uneven season to win her sixth national title, and Sasha Cohen of Laguna Niguel entranced the crowd with her artistry and won an Olympic spot with a second-place finish. Tim Goebel, who trains at El Segundo, lost his U.S. men's title to Todd Eldredge, but as runner-up he gained his first Olympic berth.

"It was fun because of all the support," Cohen said. "Sometimes it was overwhelming."

LeFevre said he was pleased with the crowds, even though some were light for the weekday sessions at Staples and the Sports Arena. He described those figures, some of which were announced at about 5,000, as within normal range, especially for a major city when most potential spectators are working.

"Every nationals you look back and say, 'How did it go?' and I'm very, very pleased with this nationals from every aspect," he said. "The judging was good. There were no flukes and everything was pretty straightforward. I think everybody agrees this is the right team, the right winners."

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