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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Passage of Riverfront Park bond puts new ice rink on front burner

A little shaky on her skates, Brynn Baker, 4, is helped by her sisters Kara, 12, left, and Asia, 9, Tuesday at the Riverfront Park Ice Palace. With the recent voter approval for the renovation of Riverfront Park, one plan is to build a new open-air ice rink along Spokane Falls Boulevard across from Spokane City Hall. (Colin Mulvany)
A little shaky on her skates, Brynn Baker, 4, is helped by her sisters Kara, 12, left, and Asia, 9, Tuesday at the Riverfront Park Ice Palace. With the recent voter approval for the renovation of Riverfront Park, one plan is to build a new open-air ice rink along Spokane Falls Boulevard across from Spokane City Hall. (Colin Mulvany)

With the approval of a tax by voters in last week’s election, the future of the Riverfront Park’s Ice Palace is short.

But many skaters gliding on the ice last weekend say they won’t miss the rink under the U.S. Pavilion – as long as city leaders follow through on plans to build a new outdoor rink along Spokane Falls Boulevard.

“I think that would be so much cooler,” said 12-year-old Mackenzie Gerlitz-Simpson. “You could see the sky.”

Her grandmother, Lauralee Simpson, said a roof makes it easier to skate on a snowy day but agreed that not having a roof could be fun.

“It would feel like when I was a kid skating on the pond,” she said.

Jared Arnold said it would be good to have the park’s skating rink in a more accessible and visible location. “I think it would be really nice to be skating around outside,” he said. “We have a nice-looking city, so you might as well see Riverfront Park while you’re skating.”

Voters last week overwhelmingly approved a $64.3 million bond to upgrade Riverfront Park. Besides a new ice rink, park officials say they will replace failing bridges, create a new central pathway through the park, remake the U.S. Pavilion into an events center, improve security, construct a new home for the Looff Carrousel and make many other changes.

The new ice rink, which has been estimated to cost about $2.2 million, probably won’t be built until 2016 and hasn’t been designed yet, said Park Board president Randy Cameron. During discussions about the bond and possible projects, Park Board members, staff and advisory committee members discussed having an outdoor rink without a roof. That option, along with many others, isn’t finalized.

“The consensus was, having it under the U.S. Pavilion wasn’t conducive for the experience,” Cameron said. “Even though you’re outside, you’re enclosed.”

The proposed location of the new rink next to the Bloomsday runners statues would be shaded by City Hall and River Park Square, Cameron said. In the off-season it could be turned into a hardscape that can be used for Bloomsday and Pig Out in the Park. “That area just gets trashed twice a year with huge events,” he said. “Grass doesn’t work there.”

Community members will be asked to provide input on the design of the ice rink, but the thought is to make it slightly larger than the Ice Palace, Cameron said. The plan is to have it used by skaters rather than organized events like hockey.

A youth group currently rents out the rink for hockey games, but the income from that amounts to less than $15,000 a year, Parks Director Leroy Eadie said. That use will go away but the popular curling league will remain, he said.

Park officials have opted against continuing hockey at a new rink as a result of the cost and because several private ice rink owners expressed concern about the city competing with their businesses.

“What we plan to design is an ice skating rink that is for recreational ice skating,” Eadie said. “We’re not trying to provide a perfect surface for figure skating or hockey.”

The Park Board probably will spend most of 2015 finalizing designs and planning a construction schedule.

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