The Skating Heritage of Stamford Twin Rinks

By Terri Milner Tarquini


December 1, 2017
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On July 23, 1989, Frank Cassella married Emily Lowenthal. That event brought together forever two storied families of skaters and ice rink operators, creating the family atmosphere that today pervades the Stamford Twin Rinks in Stamford, Conn.

“We are a family-run business,” said Emily Cassella, who serves with Frank and her sister Terry Ann to run the Stamford Twin Rinks. “We have a lot of history in the sport. We have run rinks before, and our families have run rinks earlier.”

Skaters do not participate in any program or event at Stamford Twin Rinks without knowing the Cassellas. They can’t avoid the family.

“We are always here for all the programs,” Emily said. “We make sure we are welcoming the skaters when they come in. So they see us, the head people, out on the ice and always around. We are very involved.”

The story of the family traditions goes a long way to explain why Stamford Twin Rinks is a unique place to learn to skate and to develop championship-level skating skills.

FRANK’S FAMILY

Frank and his siblings learned to skate at the Colt Park outdoor rink built by his great uncle Ray Taksar in Hartford, Conn. Frank built his skills to a championship level and moved on to rinks in New Haven, South Haven and West Hartford, teaming with Cathy Casey and eventually becoming the U.S. National Junior Silver Dance champions in 1971. Frank’s parents were instrumental in the creation of the Skating Club of Hartford. Frank eventually entered the Air Force, and became a shift commander at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Frank’s mother Barbara became a travel agent, and specialized in helping skaters make arrangements to attend national and world skating events. In 1989, Barbara encouraged Frank to join her in Paris for the World Skating Championships, for which Barbara had arranged travel for many of the competitors, including one Emily Lowenthal, a former medalist in ice dance and freestyle skating. During that trip, Frank and Emily met and discovered they knew many of the same people from the Northeast skating community. “Love at first sight,” Frank said.

EMILY’S FAMILY

Emily’s parents skated at the Skating Club of Boston, and Emily’s mother, Eleanor, eventually was trained by Maribel Vincent and Ron Ludington and was a national medalist in both freestyle and ice dancing.

The Lowenthals lived in Stamford, and Emily’s father was instrumental in the creation of an outdoor ice rink at the Roxbury Swim and Tennis club. Emily and her four sisters ran the rink together as teenagers and young adults.

Emily attended the 1989 World Championships in Paris with her family, with travel arrangements made by Barbara Cassella. “Frank was there, and that is how we met in Paris. It’s a great story,” Emily said.

THEY WILL ALWAYS HAVE STAMFORD

Emily and Frank were married soon after their Paris meeting, and worked together as coaches at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid.

Emily’s family was still in Stamford, and eventually Frank and Emily’s father created the Stamford Twin Rinks in 1996. The Twin Rinks are the centerpiece of the Springdale neighborhood of Stamford, and it hosts the Springdale Figure Skating Club. Today, Emily and Frank are among the numerous successful coaches on the Twin Rinks coaching staff.

Twin Rinks is a two-sheet facility that caters to the two competing skating crowds Connecticut fosters - figure skaters and hockey players. With an entire floor dedicated to physical training and therapy, Stamford Twin Rinks is a popular site for the many professional and semi-professional hockey players in the area.

But the focus of the facility is the figure skaters who are getting onto the ice for the first time.

“We pride ourselves on giving individual attention to all of our students, especially those in Learn to Skate,” said Emily Cassella. “We have a lot of hockey, and the top hockey players all come and train here. We have one of the top human performance facilities in the area. But I really believe in bringing the kids up through Learn to Skate.”

Stamford Twin Rinks served at times as practice facilities for American Olympians Tara Lipinski and Nicole Bobek, as well as French women’s champion Surya Bonaly. Today, the most famous skaters to work out at Twin Rinks are those who are heavily padded, the professional hockey players from the National Hockey League and the number of junior leagues in the area who train and work out in the Twin Rinks’ health and fitness facility on the upper floors of the building.

Because of the training facilities at Twin Rinks, the Cassellas see athletes from non-skating sports - golf, lacrosse, soccer - working in their building. They don’t mind; they are proud of the Prentiss Human Performance Center, “one of the top performance facilities in the area,” according to Emily.

“We didn’t have much competition for skaters in our area when we first opened, but now we do,” Emily said. “We have competition for the kids from soccer, which is very competitive in our area. That is why we work so hard to have the best coaches and the best facilities, so that when skaters come to our rink, they always want to come back to us.”