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

Trade those blades for wheels: Skating ribbon opens for roller skaters in Riverfront Park

Isaiah Covey, right helps his cousin Anna Chicoine navigate the skating ribbon with roller skates on Monday, April 2, 2018, at the Skate Ribbon at Riverfront Park. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Makai Chicoine spent his eighth birthday not scarfing down pizza, but scooting around Spokane’s winter-turned-springtime skating attraction.

“You can go down there, like that, and then turn like this,” said the birthday boy Monday afternoon in Riverfront Park, demonstrating his moves on the Razor scooter his family had rented for him instead of a trip to Chuck E. Cheese.

Chicoine then wove in and out on his scooter around brothers and sisters less adept on their roller skates. The family was among the first to test out the park’s skating ribbon on its first day of operation since a mechanical failure ended the ice skating season prematurely in early February.

“We’ve never been to the ribbon before. We thought we’d come down here and skate,” said Connie Jepson, Chicoine’s grandmother who was taking cellphone video of the children slipping and sliding along the concrete. “We wanted to ice skate, and a neighbor told us we couldn’t, but we could roller skate.”

Park officials announced in a news release Monday morning that the ribbon, the first attraction to open in the newly redeveloped Riverfront Park, was open for roller skates, scooters and other nonmotorized transport (including skateboards), all free of charge. Visitors can bring their own equipment or rent one of 300 pairs of roller skates or 20 scooters for an hourly fee.

Spokane’s ribbon joins a similar feature in Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, which also offers wheeled access during the warmer months. The roller skating season in the Windy City began last week and served as an inspiration for Spokane’s skating program, said Fianna Dickson, Spokane parks spokeswoman.

While rentals will be available only between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., park visitors may skate and scoot all day, from 5 a.m. to midnight, according to the city. Bicycles are not allowed on the ribbon.

Park officials had been teasing the availability of roller skating before the ice ribbon opened in early December to fanfare and bustling business. In late January, a woman skating on the ice fell and struck her head, later dying of her injuries. An ammonia leak closed the ice Feb. 3, and replacement parts were not installed and tested in time to reopen the ice this spring.

Despite the abrupt notice of roller skating availability, several eager visitors joined the Chicoine clan on the 645-foot-long cement path Monday afternoon.

“It’s pretty smooth,” said Ian Pratt, 12, who donned some roller skates on his first day of spring break from East Valley Middle School. Pratt’s mother texted him and his brother, Garrett Kelsey, after seeing a TV report that the ribbon was open for roller skaters.

“It’s nice to skate around here. It’s nice to be outside,” said Kelsey, 22.

For the younger set and families, Post Falls-based magician Cecil Lewis performed illusions just outside the Sky Ribbon Cafe, where park visitors can grab a bite to eat or rent skates and scooters. Free magic shows are scheduled in the park throughout the summer on select Mondays. Later this spring, the building will serve as the access point for the SkyRide gondolas.

Park officials did not give a date Monday when the gondolas would reopen, saying an announcement would come “soon.”

Free roller skating lessons will also begin this weekend, led by members of the Lilac City Roller Derby. Classes will be held at 11:30 a.m., noon and 12:30 p.m., with first-come, first-served signups beginning at 11 a.m.