Lack of numbers ends city’s oldest figure skating club

Victoria Figure Skating Club folds after 86 years in Oak Bay and Victoria

Blame the changing demographic of downtown Victoria for the demise of the Victoria Figure Skating Club.

The 86-year-old institution boasted 750 members in 1966, the econd largest in Canada at the time. But now it has folded for good following its AGM on March 26.

The club was right up there with the city’s other historic sporting organizations in terms of longest running organization.

“(The end) has been coming a long time due to a gradual decline in numbers,” said president Sharon Jarymy. “As your numbers go down, so does funding and savings. We knew we didn’t have enough money to continue next year.”

The majority of the club’s remaining skaters will likely move into the Saanich Figure Skating Club based out of Pearkes rec centre behind Tillicum Mall, Jarymy said.

“We’ve worked closely over the years with Saanich. They’ve shared ice with us, we’ve co-hosted ice shows and we share a coach, so our skaters are familiar with them.”

Numbers may have fizzled downtown and in Esquimalt, but the other clubs around town are doing just fine. The family-centric suburbs of Saanich, West Shore and Oak Bay are turning out skaters at a more consistent rate.

In her final president’s report, Jarymy cited the marginal increase in  Victoria’s population and a decline in Esquimalt’s.

“Victoria Skating didn’t have so much competition from other clubs many years ago and of course this has now changed,” said Ted Barton, executive director of Skate Canada’s B.C./Yukon branch.

Aside from the club’s disbandment, figure skating is relatively healthy in Greater Victoria and  B.C., he added.

“Our B.C. numbers have maintained the 20,000 member level for the past several years.”

Oak Bay Figure Skating Club, which started when its rink opened in 1975, has tripled since the club’s current director of skating, Jamie McGrigor, joined eight years ago.

“We’re up over 210 members. The last few years have been banner years for us.”

Juan de Fuca Figure Skating Club president Janys Langer also reported growth with her club, leading to a general consensus that the demand for youth figure skating is lower in the heart of Victoria and Esquimalt than the neighbouring regions.

“Since 2009 we have experienced moderate increases in our numbers, mostly at the (beginner) level and synchro teams,” Langer said.

Victoria Skating got off the ground in 1926, the first in the area, based out of the Patrick Arena in Oak Bay. It survived fires to the Patrick (1929) and Willows (1944) arenas, before finding a permanent home at Memorial Arena from 1949 to 2003.

Since 2004 it has operated out of Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre and the Archie Browning Sports Centre.

“(The) arenas aren’t recreation centres, so we didn’t get the extra walk-by traffic, which didn’t help our publicity level,” Jarymy said.

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