The first feature attraction of Spokane’s redeveloped Riverfront Park will open in time for the holidays, despite a rocky beginning.
City and park officials announced a Dec. 8 ribbon-cutting date for a new $10 million skating ribbon, the first of its kind on the West Coast, at a news conference Monday. Skaters will be able to hit the ice during the shopping season after initial concerns over the scope of the design delayed opening by several months.
“There were some challenges. It was our first project out of the gate,” said Berry Ellison, the landscape architect serving as project manager for the taxpayer-funded renovation of the Expo ’74 site downtown.
Workers are finishing installation of the railing that will surround the 700-foot-long attraction at the corner of Spokane Falls Boulevard and Post Street, and putting the finishing touches on a trio of fire pits that will allow skaters to step off the undulating path and warm up during the winter months. Lighting fixtures line the path, which winds its way underneath the trees and by David Govedare’s Bloomsday statues before ending in a “pond” area where skaters can congregate. In total, 300 skaters can occupy the attraction at any given time.
Outside of skating season, the ribbon and pond could serve as a location for farmers markets, roller-skating and housing amusement rides the city kept that were previously staged in the U.S. Pavilion.
“We actually kept two of our rides, the Spider and the Berry-Go-Round,” said Jon Moog, Riverfront Park’s director. “Both of them should be able to be housed right here.”
Contractors Northwest Inc. is building the ribbon, with construction costs totaling $7.5 million, according to contract amendments agreed to by the Spokane Park Board. That includes an accompanying building with room for lockers, skate rentals, parties and a kitchen selling burgers, hot dogs, pizzas, sandwiches and salads.
The facility could cost more than the amount budgeted for the attraction, in part because of rock removal on the site and equipment for the kitchen, but the bigger price tag should be covered by cost savings on other attractions in the southwest corner of the park, Ellison said.
“Out of all the south bank projects, we’re going to come in under budget,” Ellison said. “Some are under. Some are over. That’s just how construction is.”
Construction on the new Howard Street pedestrian bridge, which is nearing completion, is anticipated to cost about $446,000 less than what was budgeted, Ellison said. At most, the skating ribbon and new structure for the Looff Carrousel, which is slated to open sometime before Bloomsday next year, could cost a combined $300,000 more than was budgeted, Ellison said.
The carousel was particularly challenging, due to the historic artifacts discovered in the soil where the new building is being constructed, Ellison said.
“Every time we stuck a shovel in the ground, we hit something, slowing us down,” he said.
Admission to the new skating ribbon will be based on hourly rates. Adults will be charged $6.50, children under 12 pay $4.50. Skate rental will cost $4.50.
Those amounts are slightly more than the unlimited skating charges at the former Ice Palace, Moog said.
Skaters may also choose to buy an unlimited pass, which will be good for the entire season. The price: $30 for adults and $25 for children. Last year, both groups paid $50 for a season pass.
“We’re making the seasonal experience much more affordable,” Moog said.
Time limits will be enforced with colored wristbands issued to skaters, Moog said.
Park planners announced a slate of programming throughout the winter skating season, which will run from Dec. 8 to March 4. That includes free skate nights for the first 500 visitors on Dec. 18 at 5 p.m., sponsored by Washington Trust Bank. A pet fashion show is scheduled on the ice Dec. 21 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., sponsored by the Spokane Humane Society and River Park Square.
Access to the new feature will still be limited from the northeast until construction is finished on the carousel. Construction crews will move equipment from Spokane Falls Boulevard to the Howard Street Bridge, which will serve as a staging area for work on the carousel building. Lanes will reopen on Spokane Falls Boulevard to accommodate downtown holiday shoppers.
Park officials had originally planned for the new Looff building to open by Valentine’s Day, but that’s been pushed back several weeks due to needed work on the Rotary Fountain and surrounding paved areas, said Leroy Eadie, director of Spokane parks.
“They’re doing great. They’re on schedule, we just gave them more work to do,” Eadie said.
The Spokane Park Board has revised its budget for the overall costs of the redevelopment. Millions of dollars have been moved from planned improvements in the southeast area of the park, and on the former Canada Island, which has been renamed in Salish for the Spokane Tribe of Indians, who are participating in the island’s look after the park’s redesign. The new name of the island is pronounced sin-HOO-men-huh.
Park officials are also contemplating private fundraising efforts to pay for attractions that weren’t among the five major projects pitched in the campaign for $64 million in bonds to pay for the redevelopment. The city is also seeking grant dollars for at least one of those five attractions – a regional playground on the park’s north bank.
“We’ve always had a budget in there, but we try to leverage our funds as much as we can,” said Garrett Jones, planning and development manager for the parks department. The current park budget has $5.6 million set aside for the north bank.
Those improvements aren’t scheduled to be completed until 2019. Meanwhile, the Spokane Park Board will be presented early next month with a design plan by the team handling the $22 million renovation of the U.S. Pavilion, the largest single expense planned for the park’s overhaul.
Concerns were raised this summer, by City Council President Ben Stuckart and others, about an uncovered pavilion design. Critics said that recommendation defied promises made to voters in the bond campaign.
The design team, which includes NAC Architecture and Garco Construction, returned with a preliminary design that includes shade canopies hanging from a rigging structure beneath the pavilion’s current netting. Clancy Welsh, president of Garco, said the team will continue to hone its design throughout the winter. They’re trying to determine how much of the shade canopy can be built within the construction budget the city has set for the new pavilion.
“We’re working to really try to dial in on what we’re providing,” Welsh said.
The park board is scheduled to consider the design at its meeting Nov. 9. Welsh said initial demolition work on the pavilion could take place soon after, as the team has already begun pulling permits with the city for the work.
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