Training center in escrow
PHIL PITCHFORD, The Press Enterprise
24th April 2003

A well-known training center in Lake Arrowhead that produced such Olympic-caliber figure skaters as Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen is being sold.

The Ice Castle International Training Center had been on the market since last summer. Escrow is expected to close next week. Sales terms were not disclosed.

Current owner Carol Probst and her late husband, Walter, owned skating facilities in the mountains for 20 years. In addition to Kwan and Cohen, other well-known Ice Castle alumni include Suraya Bonaly, Nicole Bobek, Robin Cousins, Irina Rodnina and Frank Carroll.

"It is truly the end of an era for my family and me," Probst said in a statement. The buyer, Anthony Liu, is a six-time Australian national champion who competed in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics. A native of China, Liu has been teaching and training at the center for about two years.

"He really became a part of the Ice Castle family and we really have a lot of faith in him," company spokeswoman Cindy Lang said. "He believes in the place, because it means a lot to him." Probst founded the Blue Jay Ice Castle Rink in 1983 and the International Training Center in 1989. The Blue Jay Ice Castle Rink closed after the roof collapsed from heavy snowfall two years ago. It was not rebuilt.

The training center, which already was well-known around the San Bernardino Mountains, saw its national reputation grow along with Kwan's career. The center also was known for its skating shows, which featured the likes of Dorothy Hamill and Peggy Fleming.

"We always had a very high-profile person starring in the shows," said Lang, who is Carol Probst's daughter. "Pretty much anyone who is anyone in figure skating has passed through the training facility or one of the shows."

The property originally included an 11.4-acre facility that featured a lodge, dormitory, cottages, pool, dance pavilion and gymnasium. In the end, it made more sense to subdivide the property and sell two different chunks for two different purposes, Lang said. Probst was concerned that doing otherwise would have doomed the training center concept.

"That model just didn't seem to work for most people," Lang said.

The campground portion of the facility, with 25 cottages, the dormitory, pool and 72-room lodge was sold separately. It now is being operated as Arrowhead Ranch Outdoor Science School.

Liu bought the training center, consisting of the rink, an office and a house. It serves about 75 young people who train there year-round. "It is my great honor to be able to carry on a world-class training facility for figure skating," Liu said in a statement. "Ice Castle has always been like a home to me and to many other world-class skaters."