So long, summer — and swimming and baseball.
With four months to go until Omaha hosts its next major sports event, the focus has officially shifted to the ice.
Single-session tickets for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which will be from Jan. 20 to Jan. 27 at the CenturyLink Center, went on sale this week.
Event planners are coordinating volunteers, hosting media events with big-name skaters and urging people to buy tickets — from $13 single-session passes all the way up to the all-session passes, which sell for up to $965 a pop.
David Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, said the competition will be particularly important for the city because it will come at a time of year when business is usually slower for hotels and restaurants.
The event usually draws about 100,000 spectators — attendance at this year's championships in San Jose, Calif., was 102,619 — and about 1,500 skaters, coaches and officials.
Competition days featuring the senior-level skaters are televised nationally by NBC, and about 200 journalists get credentials to cover the event.
All of that adds up to full hotels and restaurants and a considerable impact on the local economy.
On average, U.S. Skating puts the economic impact on host cities at $25 million.
In Greensboro, N.C., which hosted the 2011 competition, officials said figure skating generated $27.4 million in direct economic activity, plus an additional $24 million in value from media coverage. The event generated $2.2 million in tax revenues.
“We believe that we're the only city in the country to ever host three national championships within a 12-month period, which is a great honor,” Brown said. “But it also says a lot about how Omaha supports these kinds of events.”
Meryl Davis and Charlie White, ice dancers who have won four straight national championships, were in Omaha on Wednesday, checking out the CenturyLink Center and the city. They signed autographs at Union Pacific's downtown headquarters and had lunch in the Old Market.
Both skaters said that they liked the look of the place — White called the CenturyLink “pristine” — and that they could tell people were looking forward to the championships.
They said that's good news, because even from the ice, skaters can tell whether the crowd is interested. “There's nothing like performing for people who want to watch you,” Davis said.
Organizers are starting to gather volunteers and audition young skaters to serve as “sweepers” who pick up flowers and stuffed animals fans toss onto the ice.
Lori Moehn, an event co-chairwoman, said the competition would require about 250 volunteers.
Contact the writer: