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

Early review is in: ‘The ribbon skates beautifully’

Makai Chicoine laughs as he rides a scooter past his sisters as they try their hand at roller skates  Monday at Riverfront Park. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

As a five-season roller derby veteran, I’m giving the Riverfront Park skate ribbon my seal of approval.

The ribbon opened Monday for its summer roller-skating season. It’s not just for quad skaters: In-line skates, skateboards, scooters and toddler bikes are also welcome, so long as a helmet is worn.

Monday’s crowd was thin, a mix of kids on scooters and TV news reporters giving the course a go, which left me ample opportunity to test the floor out.

The gently sloped ribbon design provides plenty of opportunity for beginners to grab a railing while traveling, and it makes for more interesting scenery than the classic skate rink setup.

A flat, circular at the east edge of the ribbon provides a good learning or practice area for those who don’t want to skate the ribbon. The park’s events manager, Diana Whaley, said that portion is due to have a ride put in in a few months, so anyone hoping to take advantage should hit the track before the end of May.

The floor is concrete without any polish, making it about as grippy as the wood floors at skate rinks.

For beginners, that means turning around the corners without losing grip will be a bit easier. For seasoned skaters, leave your outdoor wheels at home and go for a hard option. If you fall, you won’t go sliding very far.

The ribbon skates beautifully, smooth with one gradual downhill and a corresponding slope back up. It’s the kind of surface that would make solitary lap skating a joy.

Seasoned skaters should be aware the city does not allow much of what we consider “fun” on skates. Backward skating, jumps, spins, organized games, racing and skating faster than the crowd are all prohibited.

That said, the ribbon is open as long as the park is, from 5 a.m. to midnight. The corresponding city facility, which loans out helmets and pads free of charge, runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. So it’s conceivable someone could organize a late-night advanced skating meet-up during off-peak hours without too much resistance.

Scooters and skates can be rented from the city facility as well, for those who lack their own. The skates are brand new, standard-issue roller rink skates, complete with orange toe stops and a high boot.

And at the risk of getting in trouble with my teammates for promoting a rival, skaters from Lilac City Roller Derby will be giving free learn-to-skate classes on Saturdays and Sundays through mid-May. A full schedule is available on Facebook.

It remains to be seen how the lack of shade will play out on the hottest summer days, or whether mobs of children on scooters will scare away new skaters who are less adept at dodging obstacles. But having an outdoor surface designed for skating during the summer is an instant upgrade from trying to roll around downtown Spokane sidewalks.

This post has been updated to correct the name of Lilac City Roller Derby.