Some of the top figure skaters in the world, including a pair of 2014 Olympic medalists with suburban ties, will take to the ice at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates this weekend for the 2016 Progressive Skate America.
Gracie Gold, who previously lived and trained in the suburbs, and Highland Park native Jason Brown will join a field that includes three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, two-time world champion Mao Asada and numerous other international champions in the three-day competition that kicks off Friday night.
The event previously was held at the Sears Centre in 2014, when 17,000 spectators attended the three days of competition. That was the event's largest attendance since 2010 and third-highest since 2004.
"We are excited to return to the Chicago area for this prestigious international competition," U.S. Figure Skating President Sam Auxier said in announcing the event earlier this year. "The support of the skating community and the fans in 2014 made our decision to return an easy one."
Skate America takes place over five sessions, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday with the ladies short program, followed at 9 p.m. by the pairs short program.
The competition resumes at 1 p.m. Saturday with the men's short program, followed by the ladies free skate at 3 p.m. and the ladies' awards program at 4:50 p.m. Session 3 begins at 7 p.m. Saturday with the short dance program, then the pairs free skate at 8:40 p.m.
Session 4 begins Sunday with the men's free skate at 11:30 a.m., followed by the free dance at 1:45 p.m. The event wraps up with Session 5 -- the Smucker's Skating Spectacular -- at 6:30 p.m.
The skating spectacular features the medalists and special guests performing in a fun ice show. Free of the scrutiny of the judges and competition rules, the world-class athletes will perform for the audience and for the sheer love of skating.
Tickets range from $125 to $400 for an all-session pass to $15 to $90 for a single session. They can be purchased online at www.searscentre.com.
Skate America is the first of six stops on the International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series. Other stops on the Grand Prix Series include Skate Canada International, Rostelecom Cup, Trophee de France, Cup of China and NHK Trophy.
Skaters earn points throughout the Grand Prix Series to qualify for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final each December. The 2016 Grand Prix Final will be held Dec. 8-11 in Marseille, France.