SPRINGFIELD — The outdoor skating rink at MGM Springfield was launched Friday in olympian fashion as famed figure skater Nancy Kerrigan took the first spin before a crowd of adoring fans.
Kerrigan, the Massachusetts native who rose to fame with an amateur career that earned her a silver medal in the 1994 Olympics and carried her to the figure skating Hall of Fame, was selected by MGM to help break the ice, so to speak, at the new rink.
It seemed like old times for the now-retired star as she gracefully circled the ice, finishing with an upright spin in the center.
It was a simple routine, maybe 15 or 20 seconds, but Kerrigan appeared winded as she took to the microphone.
“Skating outside, you get winded pretty quick in this cold,” she said. “At least it was warmer than yesterday. Not a lot but a little.”
She would say afterward that she doesnt skate much since she retired. Years of skating, and falling, have taken their toll on her back, she said.
MGM President Mike Mathis said the opening of the ice rink marks the beginning of the casinos first Christmas in Springfield. For the casino and for the city, he said, its “a really special time.”
“When we came out from Las Vegas we knew we had something special with all these buildings and beautiful downtown,” he said.
The rink, located at the site of the former South End Community Center, will be open through March 3. Anyone can rent time on the ice for $12 for adults and $8 for children. Skates are available for $5 a pair. Members of the casinos M life rewards program get a discount.
Mayor Domenic Sarno thanked Mathis for fulfilling his promise to build an outdoor rink in downtown Springfield.
Sarno ticked off the list of events planned downtown on Friday alone: the Parade of the Big Balloons, the new skating rink, the tree lighting at the Quadrangle, the MGM community tree lighting and the Thunderbirds game.
“All of that in the city of Springfield,” he said. “I deeply appreciate your belief in the city of Springfield and I wish you a joyous holiday season.”
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Kerrigan, who skated years ago in the MassMutual Center while touring, and who has been to the city off and on over the years from her native Stoneham, said even she has noticed the change in the downtown.
“It is a great honor to be a part of something new. We come to Springfield every year (and) you transformed it,” she said.
“This is so nice. I hope all of you come out to enjoy the skating rink this winter because its so nice to skate outside,” she said.
If Kerrigan was the first to take to the new ice, let the record show that Anastasia Anderlonis of Philadelphia was the first to plant on it.
Helping her nephew Tyler get his bearings on his skates, Anderlonis lost hers and, to make a long story short, gravity happened.
Visiting her family for Thanksgiving, she said the new rink is great way to get people downtown, and to get children outside.
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