Skaters will miss Walter Chapman
Jul. 14, 1999




July 16, 1999

Skaters will miss Walter Chapman

I am one of the Cabin John Ice Rink skaters quoted in the article on management issues relating to the rink (July 7). As I read the article, it appeared to me that the Park and Planning Commission still does not really understand the problems with the rink's management -- staffing shortages, no comprehensive professional ice skating management and a serious lack of customer service. The Planning Commission seems to believe that additional communication with the rink pros is all that is needed to make the new rink work. While that improvement is certainly desirable, the rink's many problems will not be addressed just by existing management working better with the pros.

The recently-departed skating director of Cabin John, Walter Chapman, seems to be the Park and Planning Commission's designated scapegoat. In my experience, Mr. Chapman was the best thing about Cabin John's Ice Rink. He is a knowledgeable, personable and experienced figure skater, who provided me sage advice in his role as head of the pro shop. Whenever I encountered problems elsewhere in the rink, Mr. Chapman tried to get the problems resolved.

For example, when I could not get my phone calls returned by another member of rink management, Mr. Chapman tracked down the missing manager and ensured I got the response I needed.

What the new Cabin John rink needs is a management team that is experienced at running a busy, large ice rink serving both the hockey and figure-skating communities. The County Council voted to give the county residents a state-of-the-art skating rink; such a rink ought to have state-of-the-art management.

Carolyn Bell, Bethesda

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I was deeply disturbed by the article,"Skaters hope for better management after renovations." It struck me as very biased and onesided. Three people who had written letters of complaint were quoted. I didn't write any letters of complaint. I didn't need to.

I can only attest to my own experiences at Cabin John Ice Rink. I have been a patron there since 1982 when my children started in the "Learn to Skate" program. Later I learned to skate. For the last five years I have been skating on freestyle sessions at Cabin John five days a week. I have great respect for Walter Chapman who managed a large skating program. His expertice will be sorely missed when the rink reopens.

Our experience with Cabin John rink has been that we have been called when the rink has been closed due to weather conditions or mechanical failures. Management has let us know of canceled sessions. There have been times when the ice was rough due to systems malfunctions -- that's one of the reasons why the facility is being renovated!

Cabin John Ice Rink was not perfect. The complaints of the three people quoted are valid for their personal experiences. The rink at which I am skating this summer is far worse than Cabin John: The ice has humps, they change the schedule without notice, the employees are not helpful and the price of skating is higher. We had it good at Cabin John dispite it's inperfections. I look forward to returning in the fall, but doubt the problems will go away because the former skating director has left.

Caroline Thorington, Bethesda