The Detroit Skating Club has a storied history. The present day Detroit Skating Club has stories to tell as well.
Today, the Detroit Skating Club is host to hundreds of skaters at every level, and the club makes a conscious effort to have the most accomplished skaters mingle with those who are just learning how to stay up on skates. There is a community at the DSC, which is appropriate, because the community created the DSC more than 100 years ago.
Going back to the days before World War I, Detroit has always had an enthusiastic skating community. Cold weather will do that. That community built Olympia Stadium after the war, and the Olympia Skating Club had a home (as did the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, for a period of time).
In 1946, club members raised the money necessary to move again to a larger facility, built from a horse barn owned by automotive magnate Charles T. Fisher. The new facility eventually became home to the new skating group, which in 1949 decided to call itself the Detroit Skating Club.
“The club changed when we changed from a social skating club to a more serious figure skating club for training, when we took up residence in Detroit in our own building,’’ said former Dance Olympian Jerod Swallow, the current managing director of the Club.
In the mid-20th century, Detroit proper was a vibrant community, thanks to the influx of bucks coming from the automotive industry. But the figure skating community had moved to the suburbs by the late 1970s, and so too did the Detroit Skating Club, which in 1978 purchased its current facility in Bloomfield Hills north of Detroit.
The Detroit Skating Club owns its arena and has grown the facility from a two-rink house to a three-rink house. The third rink was added in 1994, and is an Olympic size rink used for both figure skating and hockey.
There are two dozen professional skating coaches working from the DSC, and they teach every level of skating up to Olympic and World class skaters.
The DSC has been home ice for dozens of national champions and many world and Olympic champions, including Todd Eldredge, Tara Lipinski, and Nicole Bobek. Jessica Joseph and Charles Butler won the gold medal in dance at the World Junior Championships, becoming the first U.S. pair to win that title. Meryl Davis and Charlie White represented DSC when they won the silver in dance at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and the gold in the World Championship in 2011.
Like every other skating club in the United States, the DSC suffered losses in the 1961 plane crash that claimed the lives of the U.S. figure skating team that was on the way to the World Championships in Czechoslovakia. DSC skater Doug Ramsay and his coach were among the 18 Americans killed on that flight.
Today, skating at DSC is a multi-level experience that somehow manages to have a singular atmosphere.
“Because we own our own building and determine our own fate, we have been able to dedicate our resources to growing our sport,’’ Swallow said. “We have a diverse group of members, from the Olympians all the way down to the entry level, and we create programs where those groups can mingle.
“At our ice show, which is the kickoff event to the skating season, there are ensemble numbers, the opening and closing, where the little kids skate with the upper level skaters,’’ he said. “There are social events in conjunction with the show where all of the kids can mingle.”
During the summer months, where skaters of all ages can virtually live if they so choose, the young ones often spend their breaks watching the older, more accomplished skaters work out.
“There is an accessibility to the older kids that is important, and fosters a lot of mentoring and inspiration,’’ Swallow said.
The DSC hosts Skate Detroit, a non-qualifying competition open to all skaters, and also hosts a National sendoff in January for its skaters that are going on to the national competition. Following the nationals, the DSC hosts the Spring Challenge Cup, an inhouse competition, in which all skaters are broken up into three teams (the Red, White and Blue) and compete not only in abbreviated skating programs, but also in relay races and other skating-related competitions.
“The atmosphere here can change at different times of the year, but it is always a very energetic environment,’’ Swallow said. “We have skaters from five foreign countries training here at different times of the year, so you have an international flavor to the social activities that are going on. It is fun to watch those relationships develop. Social media makes everyone so much more accessible. They track each other and root for each other through the year.”