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Editorial: Riverfront Park upgrade vital, and won’t raise taxes

Riverfront Park needs a major face-lift. The time is now.

The project will not raise taxes.

Built as a world fairgrounds 40 years ago, the park has added but one major attraction in recent years, the wonderful fountain dedicated nine years ago that was financed in part by the downtown Rotary Club.

The park is dark after dark. The most popular attraction, the Looff Carrousel, is a circular shoehorn with inadequate restroom facilities. And the centerpiece, the Pavilion, has a shredding roof and aging attractions, including the nation’s third-oldest Imax theater.

The park is Spokane’s 100-acre centerpiece, but it has not kept up with the improvements all around it, from the Veterans Memorial Arena to the revitalized downtown to the Centennial Trail extension through Kendall Yards to the new Grand Hotel.

A citizens group – the Riverfront Master Plan Advisory Committee – spent a year looking at ways to improve the park, meeting with more than 1,000 citizens during the process. The plan they delivered to the Spokane City Council will transform the park by upgrading lights, irrigation and other infrastructure. It will give the Carrousel a larger, climate-controlled home. The Imax will be cleared away for a promenade connecting the south and north banks of the Spokane River.

The ice rink will be moved to the Gondola Meadow. In summer, it becomes another plaza. The Pavilion, with a new cover for its iconic web, will become a venue for concerts, movies and multimedia shows.

There will be more open, grassy area than there is now.

New playgrounds will be created.

The project will not raise taxes.

The estimated $60 million cost will be covered by refinancing 1999 and 2007 park bonds at lower rates by selling new 20-year bonds. The Spokane City Council unanimously approved this investment. Voters should do the same in November.

To put this number in perspective, consider: Coeur d’Alene has invested $20 million in remaking its 17-acre McEuen Field (with parking garage); Seattle voters last week approved creation of a parks district that will have $48 million per year for maintaining parks there; and, in April, Metro Parks Tacoma celebrated an almost 2-1 vote in favor of a 20-year, $198 million bond for improving parks in that city.

Spokane’s park system is second to none. But we have not maintained or made the improvements at Riverfront needed not only to keep it the haven enjoyed by so many city residents, but by thousands of visitors drawn to the river, the falls, and events like Hoopfest and Pig Out in the Park. They generate millions for the Spokane economy. A revitalized park with better venues will attract many more.

The opportunities for sponsorships are obvious.

Don’t just look at the park you see today. Go to to see what it could be.

And for a glimpse of that future today, cross Post Street to the new City Hall Plaza, and the beautiful Huntington Park below, projects undertaken by Avista Utilities to mark its 125th anniversary.

Forty years ago, Expo ’74 was a spectacularly successful venture for Spokane. It’s time to renew that investment.

And remember: This project will not raise taxes, just spirits, pride and the economy.


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