Courtesy of Yale Figure Skating Club

After nearly a year on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yale Figure Skating Club is planning to leave Ingalls Rink largely due to financial reasons, YFSC President Nancy Brittingham told the News. The club’s practices are expected to resume in the near future at the People’s United Center, a 7-year-old multipurpose stadium at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

The planned move to Quinnipiac follows Yale’s decision last winter to raise rental fees on ice at Ingalls, also known as The Whale. As the News reported last year, the fee hike resulted from a more rigorous interpretation of NCAA rules that do not permit academic institutions to sponsor local sports clubs that include prospective student-athletes.

According to a statement issued by Brittingham, YFSC was able to obtain a one-year reprieve from the fee hike, but Yale has “maintained its position” in not offering discounted pricing for the use of Ingalls Rink going forward. Facing increased financial constraints and limited by Connecticut’s COVID-19 health guidelines, the club suspended all activities last March and is currently negotiating YFSC’s move to the People’s United Center with administrators at Quinnipiac.

“YFSC has been present on Yale’s campus for over 40 years,” Brittingham said. “We had been skating at Ingalls Rink since the ’70s … But the Yale athletic department raised the fees on ice to the extent that it would be impossible for us to stay. This presents a big loss for the club’s long history [with Yale].” 

One hundred fifty members, some of whom are as young as 3 years old, currently belong to YFSC. According to YFSC Program Director John Cain, members include mostly children of the community or of Yale faculty members, as well as athletes in middle and high school. 

In the statement on YFSC’s website, Brittingham added that “this move represents a significant loss in terms of … convenient proximity for our many Yale-affiliated families.”

Brittingham said that the YFSC plans on removing the Yale name further “down the road,” but they will continue to call themselves the Yale Figure Skating Club for now.

The move to Hamden also creates complications for the YFSC’s current members, as most of them live in the East Rock neighborhood and are affiliated with Yale, according to Rashu Seth, an associate research scientist in immunobiology and an active YFSC Board member.

“I am concerned that a longer commute to Quinnipiac University will especially hurt our members who don’t own cars,” Seth said. “I think that having the YFSC skating program conducted locally at Ingalls offered a convenience to the New Haven community and attracted many people to the sport that otherwise may not have tried it out. The YFSC’s move to Quinnipiac University will leave a void for the skating community in the area.”

Brittingham also expressed concern about possibly losing members when the YFSC moves to Hamden, but emphasized that all are encouraged to return when the club reopens and resumes activities.

Seth told the News that skating with YFSC has become a big part of her life. Seth said that her family initially joined YFSC for beginner figure skating lessons for her then 6-year-old daughter, but after seeing her daughter have so much fun, she was inspired to join YFSC adult beginner classes. She joined the board two years ago and has been involved in multiple organizational activities for the club since then.

“[Our family has] greatly benefited from the excellent skating opportunities offered by YFSC,” Seth wrote in an email to the News. “Besides lessons and practice ice we have loved participating in the holiday shows, competitions and test sessions organized by YFSC. Having been a member of the Yale community for over 10 years, I have also valued the relationships I have built with other Yale figure skating families. Skating with her YFSC friends is the highlight of my daughter’s skating experience.”

Seth explained that the pandemic hit just as YFSC members were preparing for the club’s annual spring show, which would host multiple skating programs based on the theme “Soaring High.”

Despite skaters’ inability to practice at Ingalls Rink because of the pandemic, Seth and her family have found other ways to continue their association with the YFSC by skating in neighboring rinks and under safety guidance from the state. However, Seth shares that they miss seeing other YFSC families at Ingalls every weekend.

Courtesy of Nancy Brittingham // Yale Figure Skating Club

“YFSC has been at the Ingalls rink for over 40 years and it is sad to see this association end,” Seth wrote to the News. “My daughter has always thought of YFSC as her ‘home’ club and was very proud of going to skate at The Whale every weekend. But given YFSC’s stellar record as an ice skating club, my family will continue to be a part of YFSC, and we look forward to our future at People’s United Center at Quinnipiac University.”

Brittingham explained that the YFSC Board had started negotiations with Quinnipiac prior to the pandemic and had every intention of beginning the skating program there last fall. But when the pandemic hit in March, Quinnipiac closed its rink and announced that they would no longer allow any outside groups to use their rink during the 2020-21 skating season. As soon as the rink is open again, the YFSC will continue the process to transfer over to the People’s United Center, she said. 

Cain said that while the YFSC is currently in the process of negotiating ice rental with Quinnipiac, the biggest issue it faces is finding a way to hold practices safely and enforce social distancing guidelines.

Seth and Cain explained that YFSC Board members have been meeting monthly via Zoom to discuss the logistics of the club’s move to Quinnipiac, as well as finding ways to continue to foster a sense of community among the membership despite not being able to convene in person.

“The current membership is waiting patiently for us to resume lessons and our programming,” Cain said. “We are trying to reach out and keep our communication open and share as much information as we can about our reopening strategy and plans. We have been using tools such as Adobe Spark to send feel-good videos to boost our skaters’ morale and keep the Club connected even though they are distanced right now.”

Ingalls Rink is located across from Pauli Murray College at 73 Sachem St.

Maria Antonia Sendas | mariaantonia.henriquessendas@yale.edu