By Josh Brown
TROY — When the Troy Skating Club hosted its summer competition last year, it was a bit of a challenge with Hobart Arena’s renovation still going on.
“Last year was tough,” Troy Skating Club Skating Director Leah Hartzell said. “It was tough because it was one of our biggest years yet, and we were navigating construction in the midst of all that. We really had to improvise a lot last year, and we told everybody ‘just bear with us, because next year’s really going to be great.’”
Now, it’s time for all of that to pay off.
Hobart Arena, with its new amenities ready to be put to use — will welcome a large group of figure skaters next week as the Troy Skating Club hosts its 42nd Annual Troy Summer Competition from July 13-16 — an event that is free to the public to attend.
“That’s what’s so exciting about this year,” Hartzell said. “Now we get to show off all of that great stuff, and it’s going to make our competition so much better.
“The locker room accommodations, I can’t wait to hear. That was always one of the biggest complaints we received, that our locker rooms were too small and dingy and that sort of thing. And now, they are beautiful. We get to utilize those, we get to utilize the Bravo Room to treat our judges and our volunteer hospitalities — and they are going to love it. We really do get to utilize every part of the new space provided, and we can’t wait.”
And even though those new accommodations provided new challenges, they were the kind of challenges that Hartzell and company like to have.
“When we went to plan the competition this year, we were like, ‘Oh, we can put this here, and this here, and this here,’” she said. “We were really excited to plan the new spaces. The hardest part was deciding what we were going to put where. We really had no options before — it was sort of decided for us by the layout of the arena before. Now, we had all these options for how we wanted to execute this competition. That’s really been a luxury for us this year.”
Which will make the event even more special for the Troy Skating Club’s competitors, who will have new reasons to take pride in participating in their home competition.
“We should probably show about 30 or so skaters from the Troy Skating Club,” Hartzell said. “It’s so fun. We love this. We live for this competition every year. Traveling and going to other competitions is fun and exciting and you get to see new places, but there’s really nothing like getting to compete at home and winning at home. You know your ice, and getting to compete there is great.
“Growing up, it was always my favorite place to compete. And then you get to hear all these other people who really love to come and skate where you skate every single day. There’s a lot of pride in that. It gives the girls a lot of pride to be able to do that at home.”
It’s also still a relatively new experience for Hartzell, being in charge of the competition.
“This is my third year as director. However, my history with the skating club goes back over 20 years now,” she said. “I learned how to skate at Hobart, and Troy Skating Club was my home club. I spent more hours in Hobart Arena than I did in my own house growing up. It feels completely natural and normal for me to be preparing for a Troy Summer Competition. I’ve done it for my whole life, really. It’s been a great three years. It’s really special to get to work at a place I love so much.”
This year’s competition will be slightly smaller than last year’s skater-wise, with the day of the week that the Fourth of July holiday fell on having unforeseen effects.
“We have about 180 skaters this year,” Hartzell said. “I’d say we’re holding steady. Last year was definitely our biggest year. You always want to be getting bigger, stronger and better. The holiday fell on a Tuesday this year, which forced us to push the competition a week later than it normally is. We’re typically the same weekend as Country Concert every year, but we didn’t want to interfere with holiday plans. There’s two other popular competitions in the region that are that week, and usually there’s a week or two buffer between us. Just the timing was rough to deal with this year, but it’s happened to us before. Forty-two years, and we keep trucking. It doesn’t stop us. It’s still a good, strong number for us this year, and we’re happy to be having everybody again.”
For the 42nd time.
“I think you find that’s extremely rare,” Hartzell said. “It started in 1974. It’s been a long time that this event has been here. There are a lot of new competitions that pop up every day, but there’s really only a handful, especially in this region, that have been around as long as ours have.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.