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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Riverfront Park bridge, carrousel and ice-skating projects move forward

Changes in Riverfront Park are coming soon to the south Howard Street Bridge corridor and the area closest to Spokane City Hall on the southwest side of the park.

The existing concrete bridge over the south channel of the river will be demolished starting in September and replaced with a smaller bridge that will have a step-down feature to allow parkgoers to get within inches of the flowing water.

At the same time, construction is expected to begin in the meadow bordering the SkyRide and runner statues.

There, next to the park gondola, a new type of ice feature known as an “ice ribbon” is planned.

Designers are working on ideas for a larger and more attractive building to house the historic 1909 Looff Carrousel. NAC Architecture of Spokane recently was chosen for that work.

Construction in that area of the park will displace the food vendor area for Pig Out in the Park over Labor Day weekend.

Pig Out will be moved to Havermale Island in the meadow to the west of the Pavilion.

Eventually, the meadow will become a new central plaza as the park projects move into future phases, including redevelopment of the Pavilion starting in 2018 or 2019.

Parks Director Leroy Eadie said the construction throughout the park should take five years.

The changes are made possible by a five-year, $60 million construction package approved by Spokane voters in 2014.

Designers earlier this month said their concepts are being developed with an eye to connecting park users to the river.

“What makes this park amazing is the river,” said Guy Michaelsen, of the Berger Partnership of Seattle, which has been hired for Riverfront Park design work.

Ice ribbon to connect with pond

 (Molly Quinn)
(Molly Quinn)

Riley Witt, a consultant with Stantec Inc., said the ice ribbon concept is relatively new and has proven popular in other cities.

The ribbon will allow skaters to circulate around a 715-foot meandering path with a slight up and down incline on part of the ribbon.

An ice “pond” would be located on the northeast side of the track.

The $2.2 million ice ribbon project includes construction of a 14,400-square-foot facility for skate rentals, tickets, concessions and public spaces. Outside the building, there would be fire pits and resting spots.

The ice ribbon and pond could accommodate a maximum of 350 skaters. The footprint of the building would be at least 75 feet from the river shoreline.

It would be designed as an all-weather facility.

Some skaters, however, are concerned about the project’s details.

Tera Caldera, who teaches skating, said the ice ribbon is not large enough to gather the group into a single place for instruction.

Also, hockey players may be forced to find other accommodations. Robin Bonanno, office manager at the Eagles Ice-A-Rena in north Spokane, said her facility should be able to handle the increase.

While the ice ribbon would operate from mid-November to March 1, the ice pavement could be used during other months for festivals, beer garden events, weddings, music and games. Landscaping would help create the year-round use, said Witt, of Stantec.

The ice ribbon project and related work will require a shoreline conditional use permit, which involves a public hearing before the hearing examiner. That hearing is not scheduled.

Ice ribbon construction could start as early as this summer and may be completed by the end of 2016. The existing rink, the Ice Palace in the former U.S. Pavilion from Expo ’74, will open for its last season in the fall, said Eadie, the parks director.

Howard Street Bridge to be turned a few degrees

 (Molly Quinn)
(Molly Quinn)

Unlike the ice feature, the south channel bridge doesn’t need a public hearing for a shoreline permit because it’s a pre-existing feature on the river. It is one of three bridges that carried Howard Street traffic until they were closed in preparation for Expo ’74. Another, a steel girder blue bridge, is worn and unable to handle heavy loads.

The south channel bridge project needs approval from the state Department of Ecology and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The bridge designers have been in close contact with Avista about preventing any problems with the electrical generating facilities in the park.

Brandon Blankenagel, a city planner, said the demolition will be done carefully to prevent concrete or steel from falling into the water.

The new $5 million bridge, not including engineering costs, will be turned clockwise a few degrees to improve its connection to the Pavilion and future central plaza, designers said.

To make bridge construction possible, the plan calls for building an earthen bridge over the park’s theme stream, which runs north from Avista Corp.’s dam at the western end of the south channel. It is one of the original features from Expo ‘74 and includes a meandering paved walkway with columnar basalt embedded in the architectural stream.

The temporary earthen bridge will offer access to the north side of the south channel bridge, allowing for a more efficient demolition and construction project. Material and equipment will be staged in the area known historically as the Japanese pavilion from Expo ’74, which will eventually become a new Sister Cities garden.

The existing steel blue bridge, built in 1916 over the middle channel, is not capable of carrying the weight of construction vehicles and materials, Blankenagel said.

The blue bridge will be demolished and replaced, he said. Currently, consultants are working on a study to recommend the best type, size and location for the blue bridge replacement.

Carrousel could offer ‘explosion’ of light, sound

 (Molly Quinn)
(Molly Quinn)

NAC architect Steve McNutt, a former Park Board member, said designers are looking at several options for the shape and footprint of the new Carrousel building.

One idea is to use the walkway next to Stevens Street for the expanded Carrousel building, which will include a Looff museum and visitor center.

“Good designs are an adventure,” McNutt said.

The goal is to make the Carrousel inviting and to turn each ride into something of a show with light and sound in what McNutt described as “an explosion of visual and auditory delight.” Work on a new Carrousel building is set to begin in 2017.

Currently, the Carrousel is housed inside an 8,000-square-foot building. The plan calls for expanding the building space to 12,295 square feet. The existing building is a former beer garden from Expo.

North bank area ‘a treasure’

 (Molly Quinn)
(Molly Quinn)

During a public meeting in February, designers also talked about ideas for the north bank area where work would start in 2019.

Michaelsen said the area, with its gravel parking lot and picnic pavilion, does not “look like a glorious park now.”

He said the bluff is “a treasure in plain sight.”

Pathways and a slide will give parkgoers another adventure. The north bank improvements should include a skate park, a rustic trail, a cliff climb, an indoor picnic area next to the existing pavilion, and open lawn, Michaelsen said.

The design should tie in with a proposed sports facility being sought by Spokane County as part of a countywide park improvement measure. That proposal, which could go on the ballot later this year, calls for construction of a $20 million sports field house to serve local teams and regional tournaments.

The field house would have a 200-meter indoor track. It would also host volleyball, wrestling and even table tennis. A soccer configuration is a possibility.

Michaelsen also unveiled ideas for a redeveloped theme stream, which will give parkgoers easier access to its gentle flow. Wading would be possible, along with steppingstones and water sprays. Construction would be delayed until 2018 following completion of the south channel bridge.

Boardwalks in front of the Carrousel and Red Wagon area could take strollers through new native plantings on the shoreline and become part of the overall goal of linking park users to the water in safe ways. The boardwalks would also enhance another goal – keeping the park as an urban oasis, designers said.

Maintaining the parklike feel along Spokane Falls Boulevard is critical to what designers call the “urban edge” of the park.

“We don’t want to lose the park quality of that edge,” Michaelsen said.