Archive for Friday, March 25, 1994


March 25, 1994


An 11-year-old Olympic hopeful adds a voice of support for building an ice-skating rink in Lawrence.

Elizabeth Spencer's Olympic dreams are 45 minutes away.

The Schwegler School sixth-grader wants to glide across the ice with the grace of Nancy Kerrigan, the spunk of Tonya Harding and the success of Kristi Yamaguchi, but there's no ice to be had in her hometown. The nearest rink's in Kansas City.

So last week she did the only thing she could think of, write a letter to Mayor John Nalbandian that says the obvious: We really need an ice skating rink.

"If you write a letter to President Clinton, he's not going to do anything about little old Lawrence," Elizabeth said Thursday afternoon, in-line skating around her driveway with friends during spring break. "But if you write the mayor, he's in charge of Lawrence. That's his job. Maybe it'll work."

Well, not likely. Fred DeVictor, director of parks and recreation, said residents' questionnaires, a youth survey and a consultant's study all revealed little support for building a new indoor ice skating rink.

"It's not in the cards," said DeVictor, who's writing Elizabeth a return letter on Nalbandian's behalf. "It's just not a very high priority."

Elizabeth, 11, knows the deck is stacked against her plan.

The consultant's study calls for a community recreation center to include room for an outdoor rink for roller and ice skating, but not indoors.

The city's preliminary $123.8 million plan for capital improvements through the turn of the century doesn't include an indoor rink, either.

And DeVictor said he hadn't heard of any rink builders wanting to locate in Lawrence.

"We thank her for her thoughts and expressing interest," he said, "but what we've found is there's just not a lot of interest in it."

Even so, Elizabeth said she just wanted to do something. She's always had fun roller skating at school parties, but Lawrence's Fantasyland rink recently closed. Kansas City's ice rinks are too far away for the everyday commuting required of Olympic-class athletes.

Never mind that she's never ice skated before. Her goal remains making the U.S. Olympic Team for the 2002 Winter Games, admittedly a longshot.

"I'm a little too old," she said. "Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding started real early -- like 3 or 4 or something like that. But I could (make it), if I really was serious and I really wanted to do it."

Elizabeth's mother, Sarah Spencer, said that even if a rink didn't come to Lawrence her daughter would be better off for contributing to the democratic process.

Nalbandian said he valued Elizabeth's opinions, but he supposed it would take hundreds of people like her to build a big enough market to draw a skating business into town.

"It's good for someone to take the initiative," he said.

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