Never in Scott Hamilton's wildest dreams did he imagine Ford Ice Center would host a U.S. Figure Skating Regional Championship event, let alone just three years into the facility's existence.
But for a man who made a career out of dreaming big, it was a no-brainer to accept when the president of U.S. Figure Skating made the trip to Ford Ice last summer and told Hamilton that a regional event was a must in Antioch, Tennessee.
So, on Friday afternoon, standing next to his Gold Medal won at the 1984 Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hamilton looked around at the hundreds of young figure skaters competing in the U.S. Figure Skating Eastern Great Lakes Regional Championships with the same dreams he once had and couldn't help but smile.
"I competed in the Eastern Great Lakes as a skater growing up, and this is it, this is Regionals," Hamilton said. "To dive in with the Predators to build the Learn-to-Skate Program, get the skating club really growing over here and to see all the work that's being done is extraordinary.
"I'm really encouraged by the success of this, by how much people love it. They love the facility, they love the staff, they love the ice; it's just a great situation for Nashville and for Ford Ice Center."
Hamilton, a Nashville resident and overseer of the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy, just one of many programs run out of the Ford Ice Center, has seen tremendous growth in the skating world since the twin rinks opened in September of 2014.
He's been told the Learn-to-Skate Program is the fastest growing of its kind in the entire country, and the slew of awards won by Ford Ice Center justifies exactly what is being done to grow figure skating and ice hockey throughout Middle Tennessee and beyond.
Video: Ford Ice Center hosts major figure skating event
"We really want to make sure that we accommodate everyone that wants to skate, and for whatever their ambitions are," Hamilton said. "We don't care, we just really are taking joy and creating a phenomenal environment and having fun doing what we're doing. The fact that we're doing it with the Predators is extraordinary because there's nothing like what they do. They're extraordinary with fan engagement and creating an incredible environment, and this is an extension of that."
The attention garnered around the hockey and figure skating worlds for what is happening in Nashville didn't come without trials and tribulations. But for Hamilton, who has a new book on the horizon entitled Finish First: Winning Changes Everything, the success of the programs at Ford Ice Center - and those who participate in them - have come from falling down and getting back up, figuratively and literally.
Hamilton estimates that in his 36 years of competitive figure skating, he fell down approximately 41,000 times - but he got back on his skates on each occasion. So, whether it was competing for Gold, battling cancer or simply getting people excited about skating again, Hamilton knows how to do it the right way.
And as he looked around on Friday afternoon at the magnitude of what was happening at his home rink, he couldn't help but smile - not only because of what was occurring in the present, but what is still to come in the future.
"It all starts with us, and whatever we create, that's what our skaters are going to experience, so we've got to follow through on it," Hamilton said. "We have a lot of notoriety and we get a lot of attention because skating is in somewhat of a recession. But then people see what we're doing here and they see that there's hope, so we're going to continue building that."
For more information on the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy, click here. To learn more about Scott, his career and his Foundation, click here.