A HISTORY OF ICE SKATING IN ATLANTA AND
THE ATLANTA FIGURE SKATING CLUB
The story begins in the early 1950’s, when Holiday on Ice came to Atlanta and installed a temporary ice surface in the old City Auditorium. The night before the show opened, Atlantans were invited to come and skate. There was a big crowd that night, all with their own skates of course. Bill Barg and Mary Bohland of Holiday on Ice took notice of this interest and in late 1955 opened the “Figure 8” Rink in a building at the Lakewood Fairgrounds. Henry Lie (Lee) and Fran Pappas were the instructors and Jerry Smith was the engineer. Management set aside 6 to 8pm on Monday nights for a figure skating club to meet. Thus the Atlanta Figure Skating Club was formed. The Club was originally all single adults. Only two were U.S. Figure Skating members, Rud Ellis and Robin Watts. As interest in figure skating grew, a Junior Club was organized and Fran Pappas taught group lessons during the Club time.
The rink stayed at Lakewood for two seasons (rinks weren’t open year round in those days). Unable to obtain a suitable lease from the city, a search was made for another location. Unable to find a good location, but desirous of keeping the momentum going, the rink was installed in a garage of Paul Jones’ wrestling arena on Houston St. in downtown Atlanta. A post was in the center of the ice! It was here that judges were brought in from St. Louis to judge the first figure tests and AFSC gained U.S. Figure Skating membership. Our first three judges received Low Test appointments. Management continued to look for a better location. The pipes were actually moved to Broadview Plaza (now Lindberg Plaza), but a lease could not be worked out, so the rink equipment was sold and moved to Augusta, GA. All was not lost, however, because Mrs. Carling Dinkler Sr., had taken up skating and had built a small Belvedere Rink in Decatur. Jerry Smith was hired to run it. The AFSC felt that this rink was too small, so no sessions were held for one season. The next season, the Club decided to support Jerry Smith and hold sessions at Belvedere.
Meanwhile, the Nicol brothers started building the first Igloo Rink, a 60x100 surface on Roswell Rd. in Buckhead. The Club moved there and skated for several years. Fran Pappas led several Carnivals, which were about as good as could be held on the limited ice surface, before the Igloo was torn down and replaced by a full size rink, which was nicknamed “The Bigloo”. During the time of the Igloo, Atlanta enjoyed a boom in building ice rinks, none of which exist today. The Colony Square Rink, Iceland, the Omni International Rink, and the Rink at Shenandoah were built. AFSC judges were used at all these rinks, and the AFSC conducted Advanced Junior sessions at Iceland.
Bruce Stultz worked at the Igloo long enough to see that a rink was needed which put priority on training competitive figure skaters. He built the rink at Parkaire Mall and hired Lynn Dixon Thompson to run the training program. The AFSC moved to Parkaire and hosted its first U.S. Figure Skating competition, the 1976 South Atlantic Regional Championships. Later, the Mall was completely rebuilt, and a separate building constructed to house the present day Marietta Ice Center.
The high point of these first years was the hosting of the 1980 U.S. Figure Skating National Championships at the Omni. Since this was an Olympic year, there was widespread coverage by the press and the AFSC gained in stature nationally. Much has happened since 1980, but hopefully this early history will be of interest to all.