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  SCW Store

"ABOUT US"
and
"A HISTORY OF THE CLUB"

About Us:
     
     The Skating Club of Wilmington (SCW) is a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) corporation which operates as a multi-faceted club primarily focused on ice skating in all its forms and those other activities which support or enhance ice skating. It caters to all age groups and strives to have a practical mix of hockey, serious competitors, figure skaters, ice dancers, synchronized skating teams, recreational skaters, and community service while preventing any one activity from growing so large as to prevent the proper serving of any other group. It also emphasizes the health and fitness benefits of ice skating to all. What you have just read is The Skating Club of Wilmington's mission statement.

     In a nation concerned that even its children are becoming couch potatoes, skating keeps youngsters and adults active and fit. Its seeming grace belies its difficulty. Skaters must learn self-discipline, work ethic, close attention to detail and the importance of practice. They receive grounding in the arts, especially music and dance. Young skaters learn to interact well with each other and with adults. They learn good manners. They learn to be on time. They acquire self-confidence and they gain self-esteem. Adult skaters also enjoy acquiring new skills and the challenge of improving their performance.

     Skating is often a family sport, which children, parents and sometimes grandparents can enjoy together. Mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, practice ice dancing together. It is a sport for all ages. The Skating Club of Wilmington offers Parent-and-Tot classes, youth and adult classes. Some of our adults are 50 years old, and several are in their 70’s and 80s.

     The organization began as a private club. It still operates as a club; one of about five ice rinks in the United States, owned and operated by its members. Today’s members are a diverse group, and membership fees are structured so almost any family or individual can join this friendly supportive organization. Public sessions offer an inexpensive option for occasional recreational skaters.

     The rink’s activities try to include those who might otherwise never experience ice skating, through open houses, birthday parties and through such programs as “Skate with Santa” and lunch with the Easter bunny for children whose mothers have fled abusive situations for women’s shelters. Some of these shelters are Child, Inc., Children and Family First and the YWCA. 

     The Skating Club of Wilmington would like to do more. Groups from public and private schools visit the rink each month to skate and often to receive skating instruction. Far more would like to come. General Manager, Peter Bilous, says he could fill the rink with school groups every day, but their requests must be balanced with other demands for ice time.

     The Skating Club of Wilmington also operates ice skating camps and hockey summer day camps; hosts group outings for physically or mentally disabled youngsters, offers skating parties for organized groups such as YMCA and YWCA, and provides Merit Badge testing for Boy and Girl Scouts.

     Hockey programs through the Typhoon Hockey organization and a Men's League are offered to several hundred skaters. The Skating Club of Wilmington has also offered a learn to skate program jointly with the New Castle County Parks and Recreation Department. Many schools have requested ice time for their own hockey programs. With its present facilities, the rink is not always able to meet all requests.

     An active conditioning and physical fitness program, with one of the best arrays of fitness equipment in the area, supports the hockey program and is also available to figure skaters. The fitness equipment must be housed in a room also used for membership meetings, ballet and other dance classes, receptions, recognition ceremonies, etc. All these programs feel the space crunch.

     The Skating Club of Wilmington offers public classes in ice skating for all ages from tots through adults. As they learn, these students have the opportunity to perform for family and friends, and to earn badges for their skating accomplishments. Private instruction is available from professional coaches with impressive backgrounds in every area of skating. Several of our coaches are former Olympians. 

     As skaters progress, they may, if they choose, participate in competitions, gaining experience in poise and in good sportsmanship. The Skating Club of Wilmington hosts local competitions and exhibitions, and helps its skaters appear in similar events at other area rinks. It sponsors its more skilled skaters as they move into regional and national competition. In the 80's and 90's, Kitty and Peter Carruthers, Gillian Wachsman & Todd Waggoner, and Calla Urbanski (with Rocky Marvel), all of whom have represented SCW, competed in the Pairs Events in 4 different Olympic games. The Skating Club of Wilmington’s skater, Jamie Loper, became a professional and now tours with Disney on Ice. Not many young competitors reach such peaks. But each one will gain poise, learn valuable lessons and enjoy the thrill of accomplishment.

     The Skating Club of Wilmington is known widely for its programs for adults. In 1995, it hosted the first U.S. Adult National Figure Skating Championships. The event drew close to 500 skaters and their families from all over America to Wilmington. It was such a success that the United States Figure Skating Association made it a yearly event and ironically it has grown too large to be accommodated in Wilmington, where it all began. The rink also regularly hosts adult competitions, which draw competitors from as far away as France.

     Ice Dance is especially popular among adult skaters. The Skating Club of Wilmington’s ice dancing coaches come from around the world, and many were champions in their homelands. The Skating Club of Wilmington offers the opportunity to practice ice dance daily, and to test and progress from the easier to the most difficult ice dance. At weekly dance sessions, adult skaters dance with each other and with professionals, combining athletic and social pleasure. Skaters from other rinks visit The Skating Club of Wilmington to take part in its ice dance programs, and the demand for ice time for dance, as for other activities has exceeded the rink’s capacity.

     Adults also are encouraged to volunteer help in all rink activities, serving the community and helping strengthen families. Volunteers may attend seminars to acquire and improve such skills as judging, accounting and announcing for figure skating tests and competitions. And like skaters, judges, accountants and announcers may work their way up to national skating events. Clinics are also provided for hockey coaches and referees.

     All these activities and more, for instance, a summer day camp for children during school vacation, could be expanded to serve the community better with expanded facilities. New worlds could be opened for many youngsters and adults alike. And northern Delaware could enhance its already national reputation as a center for figure skating.

Our History:

     Skating on the Brandywine! How many memories are evoked in the minds of the charter members of The Skating Club of Wilmington of ice skating in the area, limited to a few days of winter when the Brandywine River and nearby lakes and ponds were frozen. It was in March of 1964 that The Skating Club of Wilmington opened its indoor skating rink and ice skating became possible for nine and a half months a year. The history of The Skating Club, however, begins prior to 1964.

Predecessors of The Skating Club of Wilmington

     In the late 1940's, Mr. Frederick Chorlton Mitchell recognized the need for an ice rink and, while participating in a Hobby Show sponsored by the Wilmington Lions Club in conjunction with Recreation, Promotion and Service, Inc., he solicited the names of 200 people who had a genuine interest in ice skating.

     Eventually, through Mr. Mitchell's untiring efforts, an outdoor rink was built at Price Run Park with private financing by local philanthropist, Mr. William Winder Laird, and operated by Recreation, Promotion and Service.

     The Price Run Rink opened on February 14, 1955, with portable ice-making machinery that was experimental. A few members of The Skating Club of Wilmington still remember the often windy, snowy and even rainy nights of outdoor skating.

     By March 1956, it was clear that there was sufficient public interest in ice skating to form a club and a small group of persons, headed by Mr. Louis P. Holladay, III and Mr. Mitchell, contacted those who had expressed an interest, thus forming the Wilmington Skating Club.

     By October 1956, the Constitution of the Wilmington Skating Club was adopted with Mr. Holladay as first President and Mr. Augustine Hicks Lawrence, Jr. as Vice President and the first Club skating session was held at the Price Run Rink. Also, during that time, the Club applied to the USFSA for membership, and on February 4, 1957 it was accepted as a USFSA Probationary Member Club with Full membership being granted in 1958.

     The Wilmington Skating Club used the facilities at Price Run Rink until that rink closed at the end of the 1959-60 season because of ice-making problems. During the next two years the Club skated at Cliff Thael's indoor studio ice rink on Penny Hill with Mr. Mitchell as its President. It was there, during the second year, that members became acquainted with Mr. Philip W. Fraser, the studio's new Professional and Manager.

Formation and Construction of The Skating Club of Wilmington

     With increased local interest in ice skating, it became evident that a full-sized enclosed rink was needed. A tremendous canvass headed by Mr. Lawrence raised $1,200, in $5 contributions, for a study of plans for a rink and availability of a site. At the same time it was decided that the operation should take a new name and on March 3, 1961 THE SKATING CLUB OF WILMINGTON was incorporated.

     The Club applied to the USFSA for a change of club title which was readily granted. Land was located on which the rink could be built and, after rezoning and many other complications, The Skating Club of Wilmington took title on June 15, 1961. The five and a half acres purchased cost $37,500, for which the Club borrowed the money.

     In 1962, Mr. E. Nelson Edwards, architect for the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society in Ardmore, was engaged by the Club to draw up plans for the construction of the new rink. In August 1962, the Club filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission a registration statement covering $300,000 Sinking Fund Debenture Bonds due in 1993. A number of civic minded individuals and some of the Club members subscribed to these bonds to the total amount of $268,000.

     Ground breaking ceremonies for the rink took place on June 15, 1963 when a group of people, including Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Mitchell, poured crushed ice on the ground as a gesture symbolic of laying a smooth ice surface. The land and building, including various equipment, cost just under $600,000, of which about 83% was borrowed. This was a large undertaking for a private club with 256 charter members and credit goes to those optimistic and dedicated people who insisted that "it could be done".

     On March 20, 1964, the members finally skated on their own ice for the first time, and on April 12 there was an official opening with exhibitions by Canadian and American champions and general celebration by the membership, the Staff and the Club's only Professional, Mr. Fraser. Although the first season was very short, it was nevertheless successful with its new figure skating and hockey programs.

The First 25 Years, 1964 - 1989

     In 1965, locker rooms were added to the original bare bones structure, and in succeeding years the Frederick C. Mitchell Lounge, the upstairs kitchen, bleachers, show lighting, the audio system, and the ceiling insulation of silver batting were also added. The professional staff grew from one to as many as fifteen for several years. The original full-time staff of three, a manager, a bookkeeper and a superintendent, was doubled, and sometimes tripled. The rink was in such demand that for years it was open 24 hours a day.

     The Club started operating a summer figure skating school in 1965, and a summer hockey camp in 1970. Over the years it also hosted a number of Philadelphia Area, South Atlantic and Eastern figure skating championships, as well as its own SCW Club Competition and the still existing Skate Wilmington Summer Competition. The Brandywine Blades Spring Show was an annual event for many years and IceScapes Summer Exhibition still continues.

     The Wilmington Wheels hockey program was organized by Charter Member Joseph A. Wheelock who also served as the first coach. The Wheels were named in his honor. The excellent reputation of the Club program has been maintained by the dedication of his many successors over the years.

     Insignia Items (pins, tie tacks, charms, tie bars), now collectors' items, were designed and made by well-known artist, silversmith and Gold member, Mrs. Eleanor C. Nichols. Mrs. Nichols originally created the SCW pin and other SCW jewelry in the late 1960s. Her design was adapted in 1969 by Charter Member, Mrs. Alice R. Edinger, for the Club Logogram, Newsletterhead and Handbook cover. Many other uses of both the original and the adaptation have since followed.

     In 1980, the non-profit SCW Foundation, Inc. was established with the objective of furthering affordable skating to teams, competitors and the community at large by receiving and distributing tax-deductible donations of funds and in kind.

     A number of new membership categories, both full and associate, were instituted and also a number of new skating programs for both members and non-members, thus enabling the Club to serve an ever wider market.

The Next 25 Years, 1989 - 2014

     In the spring of 1989, the Club sold 2.72 acres of its undeveloped land to finance major renovations of the rink and convert it to a year-round facility. The renovations took three months to complete, cost $700,000 and resulted in a new refrigeration system, new electrical equipment, longer ice surface, totally enclosed new barrier, hockey boxes, new rubber matting, renovated skate shop, new rental shop, and remodeled Office. In 1990 a new Zamboni was purchased for $43,000. In 1995, the arches holding up the roof were refurbished at a cost of $100,000. The next season, new heating and light systems were installed. Other important work awaits attention and will be addressed as time and finances permit.

     In April of 1995, SCW was privileged to host the very first United States Adult Figure Skating Championships sanctioned by the USFSA. It was such a resounding success that it has become a large annual event, commonly known as "Adult Nationals", which can only be held at locations with several ice surfaces. In March of 1997, SCW hosted its first annual Adult Open Competition, a non-qualifying competition.

     Since its inception, SCW has offered a General Membership which had unlimited transfer privileges and lower dues than the Regular Membership which was also offered. A General Membership was purchased from a list of those for sale by former General Members who had resigned in good standing for the original 1960s price, that is $500 for Multiple Skating privileges or $300 for a Basic or Individual Skating Privilege which was payable directly to the original owner. General memberships were limited in number and originally served the purpose of bringing in capital contributions to help construct the Club building. As time passed, the resale value of these memberships was determined to be negligible because so few were sold from the available list. The Board of Directors passed a resolution in 1996 to eliminate and retire all General memberships not currently in use.

     In the 1996-1997 Club year, the Wilmington Wheels hockey program changed their name to the Wilmington Typhoons. The Club's hockey program was converted from a Club program to a rental ice program beginning with the 2002-2003 Club year.

    On February 19th, 2004 one of our most loved members and a guiding light to SCW passed away. Emory Mersereau (81) epitomized the heart and soul of the Club for 40 years. His legacy will live on through its members, staff and professionals. They will continue to guide it during the years ahead to its 50th celebration in 2014.
 


Based on "History of the Club" written in 1976 by Eleanor H. Wagner; revised in 1989-90 by Peter A. Bilous, Brenda S. Fedorak and Elizabeth B. Ingersoll, and again in 1996-1997 by Martha C. Baumeister, Dorothy D. Gualtieri, Valerie S. Pease and Carole S. Smith. Last paragraph revised by Don Thureau on 2/22/04.
 

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