As hundreds of patrons glided under the soft glow of multicolored lights, twinkling across the ice at the base of a 60-foot Christmas tree, Riley Witt couldn’t resist a comparison.
“It’s beginning to be the Rockefeller corner of Spokane,” said Witt, the architect of the wandering, 645-foot ice skating ribbon, which opened at Riverfront Park on Friday night.
Before the first skates carved the fresh ice, Spokane Mayor Dave Condon and parks President Chris Wright, toting a giant pair of shears, snipped through a wide red ribbon and officially kicked off the multimillion-dollar venue, the first of its kind on the West Coast.
A graceful routine by the Lake City Figure Skating Club followed, drawing applause as the skaters moved in unison to a rock ’n’ roll edition of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”
Condon said he was impressed by the turnout.
“It’s exciting to see all the citizens down here and finally get this open,” Condon said. “It’s also great to see something unique like the ice ribbon. You don’t see many places that have them.”
The outdoor feature, which includes a 3,519-square-foot area shaped like a pond to skate on, is also unique in that it features slight inclines and declines.
Scott and Stacey Turk brought their three young children Friday night. They expressed approval of the unique layout.
“It’s great. We’re talking about coming back,” said Scott Turk, unlacing his daughter’s skates. “It’s more than we could have imagined.”
“The downhill side is really fast. Most of the skaters are beginners, so that incline can be exciting,” he added.
Bianca Soto, a 25-year-old competitive figure skater from Coeur d’Alene, traversed the ribbon in a series of spins and twirls.
She said the rink is the curviest she’s ever skated on.
“It’s fun and unique,” she said. “But if you’re not a good skater, you could do a nosedive on some of those inclines.”
The first of five major projects at Riverfront Park, the ice ribbon also features a concessions and ticket facility. Outside, it has heaters and three fire pits.
An ice lounge was available Friday night, dispensing hot cocoa on a bar made of ice, also featuring tables and chairs made of ice.
“I haven’t seen Riverfront Park this festive in at least a decade,” Condon said.
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