The decision to convert a sheet of ice into an indoor soccer field at The River’s Edge in Davenport could cost the local figure skating community a coach with international credentials.
Elena Cockerell, who has coached at the facility since it opened 15 years ago as the Quad-City Sports Center, said the crunch for ice time leaves her contemplating a move. She perceives a more favorable treatment for soccer and hockey players
“I feel like they view (figure skating) as only recreational and the basics,” she said. “I have skaters who have the potential to be very good. But if I don’t have income, I can’t stay. And I don’t want to see my knowledge and talent for coaching go to waste.”
Davenport Parks and Recreation director Seve Ghose said the figure skating coaches signed a contract several months ago, so he was surprised to hear they were upset. While there is less time overall because of the ice sheet conversion, Ghose said the supply fits the demand.
“The numbers are just not there,” he said. “For the freestyle session, if we see more than 10 skaters, we’re happy. But there are usually only six or seven. The biggest hurt is their membership is way down.”
The freestyle sessions are for more advanced skaters, with skating seven days a week.
Ten years ago, Ghose said, ice time was at a premium in the Quad-Cities with more than 150 members in the figure skating club and more than 400 hockey players. Now, there are fewer than 50 regular figure skaters and the hockey numbers are just now beginning to climb back into the mid-200s. By comparison, Ghose said, there already are commitments from 146 soccer teams, totaling about 1,500 soccer players, for fall and winter sessions.
Shari Baker, another veteran figure skating coach, said she is concerned she won’t have enough time to get lessons in for the 15 or so skaters she teaches. The times, from 3-5 p.m., also are a struggle.
“Kids in Davenport don’t even get out (of school) until 3:40 and they will only get an hour of time, if that,” she said.
But worst of all would be losing Cockerell, she said.
“She was an Olympic-level skater representing Russia,” she said. “I’d hate to lose her. There are no other professional instructors based here other than us, and we won’t be able to convince anyone to come here because you can’t make a living working an hour and a half a day.”
Todd Larsen, who coaches hockey and is on the board of the Quad-City Hockey Association, says ice time is tighter now, but he believes city staff is doing a solid job with scheduling.
“No one really wanted to lose a sheet of ice, but when the city bought it, they couldn’t see the justification for the cost of a second sheet that wasn’t always used. When there were two sheets, one sat idle a lot,” he said. “It’s forced us to plan better, and we’ve done our best to be organized and prepared. We looked at programs we were running, our numbers and got those to the city soon enough so that for the most part, we have all the ice we need.”
Ghose said the city wants to see both figure skating and hockey continue to grow. He believes both can be accommodated on the single sheet. But he has no regrets about making the move to the soccer surface.
“It was a very well-thought out group decision, based on the numbers these clubs provided us in the beginning,” he said.