Skating Where Skating is not "King"

By Kent McDill

April 1, 2017
   In The Loop Extended Articles

In a town where basketball is king (only because there isn’t a rank above “king”), the Greensboro Ice House entices athletes young and old to put on figure skates.

“There is a real interest in cultivating the sport in an area that doesn’t always first think about ice skating,” said Nicole Gaboury, a PSA master rated program director who is the skating director at the Greensboro Ice House in North Carolina.

Gaboury herself is a transplanted Minnesotan figure skater who has lived in the Southeast for approximately 15 years and is, by happenstance, in the position of promoting a sport to a community that, unlike Minnesota, always has to go inside to skate.

“I am a Minnesota girl, where there is an ice rink on every corner, but being down south, it is surprising that the skating footprint is getting bigger all the time,” Gaboury said. “The word-of-mouth has been really positive and our retention numbers have been pretty good.”

The Greensboro Ice House, a PSA Excellence on Ice facility, is a single-rink facility that will celebrate its 20th anniversary this fall. “I think Greensboro has an eye on possibly expanding, but there is nothing concrete,” Gaboury said. “But I say we could support another sheet.”

The coaching staff at the Ice House includes freestyle and pairs junior champion Lance Travis (a Greensboro native), junior men’s champion John Carlow Jr., and Skate Canada gold medalist Jane Hottinger. The Ice House has produced regional skaters and junior national medalists, and “for kids who have the aspiration to go farther, they would not be inhibited in Greensboro.”

Gaboury said U.S. Figure Skating has provided jump starts for the Greensboro Ice House by conducting competitions in nearby cities, including the 2011 and 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, held at the Greensboro Coliseum. Such exposure, to a population that does not usually have figure skating as their number one spectator sport- “a lot of people have basketball on the brain down here”, Gaboury said- always produces an enrollment bump that is sizable.

“For a lot of people, I would say that was their first experience, and they went to the championships as spectators, which drummed up interested people who didn’t necessarily even know there was a rink in Greensboro,” Gaboury said. “That event has helped us out in Greensboro.”

The Greensboro Ice House Learn to Skate program hosts 150-180 students in the quieter spring and summer months and reaches 250 or above in the winter months. “For an area like this where ice skating is not really intuitive yet, those are good numbers,” Gaboury said.

Because Gaboury grew up in the more vibrant skating world in Minnesota, she recognizes in the Greensboro Ice House the same spirit that exists in most community ice rinks in the U.S. “I think rinks tend to have a family nature anyway, but this is a very tight-knit community, and we have a lot of cooperation between the figure skating and hockey people.

“To be in a job where you are in front of kids every day and can positively impact young kids as they are going throughout life…I never in a million years would have thought this would be my profession, but it is a good one,” Gaboury said.