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

Ice ribbon in Riverfront Park delayed by design that came in over budget

An overly ambitious design will delay the opening of the first signature project in Riverfront Park’s massive taxpayer-funded overhaul, the latest in a series of setbacks for the project.

“It didn’t evolve the way I would have liked,” said Chris Wright, president of the Spokane Park Board, after a vote Friday morning to simplify designs for the ice-skating ribbon. Original drawings submitted by design firm Stantec in August would cost $400,000 more than the $6.5 million budgeted for construction of the ribbon and an adjoining skate rental and concession area.

The design revisions will require the city to pay $35,000 in fees and delay opening of the ribbon until November 2017; it originally was scheduled to open next summer.

That $35,000 will come out of a $64.3 million taxpayer-approved bond, portions of which have already been earmarked to pay for costs that Park Board members have said weren’t considered when an original master plan was approved for park improvements two years ago. Those costs include larger-than-expected expenses to repair bridges and clean up the soil that will be disturbed during the five-year project, as well as more extensive archaeological digs needed for construction permits than previously envisioned.

As a result of mounting costs, park officials are exploring private fundraising to supplement the bond money. Wright said the city is in good position to secure grants for improvements at the north end of the park, and the City Council will consider naming the park a “brownfield redevelopment zone” to attract state dollars for environmental work.

The ice ribbon was initially given a $2.2 million price tag in the 2014 master plan. Wright said that number was a placeholder and did not reflect the final design decisions made by board members. The ice ribbon, with the space designed as a plaza that could host outdoor events, is one of five promised improvements to the park through the 2014 bond.

“The master plan was just a concept, and an idea to get to what are the things we really wanted to focus on,” Wright said.

Matt Walker, a consultant for the firm Hill International who is providing project management support for the redesign, took some of the blame for the delay and over-budget design, but stressed the ice ribbon is the first major project in the park.

“This was a very convoluted project,” Walker said. “It was the first project out the gate, with unrealistic time frames.”

Riley Witt, who is in charge of designing the ribbon for Stantec, called the revisions “a pretty common” step in the process.

“Let’s face it. It’s not like building a house. This is a big project,” he said.

Walker said the city’s contract with Stantec did not require the firm to redesign the ribbon if it came in over budget. Wright said Stantec had “eaten a lot of fees” on designing the ribbon, and that the $35,000 figure amounted to “a good compromise” with the firm based on the original uncertainty of what amenities park planners wanted.

Leroy Eadie, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation division, agreed.

“We went in and said we were quite frustrated. It was a negotiation,” he said.

Stantec originally was signed on to design the ice ribbon and building, Witt said. The Park Board then decided the firm should design the entire corner of the park where the ribbon would be located, which added to the difficulty of the design.

“At the end of the day, we’re done designing it. They’re over budget, and they had to cut some things out,” Witt said.

The proposed revisions to the design include removing a feature for snowmelt, simplifying the landscaping around the design and paving with asphalt, instead of concrete, according to estimates from Stantec that were distributed at the Park Board meeting Friday. Witt called them “nominal” changes and said the design should be ready to go out to bid for construction in November.

Ted McGregor, publisher of the Inlander who helped coordinate the master plan and is overseeing the redevelopment for the Park Board, said the design issues should not temper enthusiasm for the attraction.

“They’re going to deliver an awesome ice ribbon,” McGregor said. “The building was what caused the problem.”