Construction workers team-lifted triangular wooden panels from the shelter formerly housing the Looff Carrousel on Thursday morning, one of the last steps before the building is torn down for the attraction’s new $7 million home.
The work revealed a concrete slab foundation bearing the spray-painted names of past park workers, some with the dates of bygone summers scribbled underneath.
“Actually, if you go throughout the park, you’re going to see things like that,” said Leroy Eadie, director of the Spokane Parks & Recreation Department, on a walking tour of the work being performed as part of Riverfront Park’s $64 million, multiyear redevelopment funded by a taxpayer-approved bond.
Originally a Bavarian beer garden during Expo ’74, the building housing the 108-year-old attraction is slated for full demolition within the next two weeks. A snowy winter and gushing snowmelt pouring into the Spokane River have not affected the timeline of the multiple projects under construction along the park’s southern edge, including construction of the new Howard Street bridge and an ice ribbon feature in the park’s gondola meadow, park officials said.
“We had a tough winter with a lot of snow and a lot of cold temperatures,” said Eadie. “Crews stayed out and really kept us on schedule.”
T. Lariviere Equipment & Excavation, an Athol-based firm, has been in charge of rebuilding the Howard Street span, a $4.7 million project. Cranes floating on barges used massive drill bits to dig shafts 10 feet deep into the basalt bedrock, a process that is nearly complete, said Thomas Haroldsen, who is overseeing the work for T. Lariviere. Divers aided the work, even on winter’s coldest days.
“They had a heater pumping, I want to say, 100-degree water through the suit,” Haroldsen said.
The firm has been cleaning debris from the riverbed, including wheelchairs, old building material and barricades. Crews also removed an indecipherable banner that had become caught on one of the bridge’s supports, Haroldsen said.
“It just looked like a big white sign, you couldn’t quite read what it said,” he said. “It was an eyesore, too.”
The new bridge will retain some of the railing of the old span and feature access points for pedestrians to walk right down to the water’s surface, according to designs. The bridge is expected to open later this year, as is the ice ribbon in the gondola meadow.
Contractors Northwest, Inc., owned by the same parent company as T. Lariviere, is building the new skating feature at a cost of $7.4 million. Workers have begun digging trenches for the 700-foot-long attraction’s adjacent service building, which will provide food service and ticketing for skaters and those wishing to ride the gondolas over Spokane Falls.
“This ribbon’s going to have topograhy to it,” Eadie said. “You’re going to skate uphill a little bit, and you’re going to skate downhill a little bit.”
The inclines will be slight, Eadie said, and shouldn’t affect the city’s Olympia ice resurfacer that will have to operate more frequently because the ice will be exposed directly to sunlight and other weather conditions.
The carousel, which was closed Jan. 2, is scheduled to reopen by Valentine’s Day 2018 in a new, multistory glass building. Eadie said the new facility will be climate controlled and can show off the height of the attraction, built in 1909 and originally housed at Natatorium Park.
“You get a really good feel of this building here, before it gets demolished, how low it is,” he said. “It didn’t really show off the carousel.”
Design plans include an area for an exhibit of the attraction’s past, which could include the copper paneling that was removed from the existing shelter’s roof and a horse statue that sat at the top of the structure.
The redevelopment of the park is expected to continue through 2019, with crews working their way north through the park to build a new pavilion on Havermale Island and a planned regional playground on the river’s north bank. The Post Street bridge, and the blue bridge connecting Havermale Island to the north bank, will also be replaced during that time, with money from other city accounts that do not include the $64 million bond passed by voters.