Mayor David Condon and others test out Riverfront Park's new ice-skating ribbon

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Mayor David Condon is the Brian Boitano of our time. - DANIEL WALTERS GIF
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  • Mayor David Condon is the Brian Boitano of our time.

It's been more than three years since voters passed the $64.3 million bond to revitalize Riverfront Park. And for three years, controversies popped up around delays, setbacks, higher-than-expected cost estimates, changing designs and internal division.

And in one early move — both praised and criticized — the park board decided that instead of a conventional ice-rink upgrade the voters were told about before they passed the bond, the design would be bigger and bolder: Riverfront would get a looping ice-skating ribbon, complete with a full-scale kitchen. It was a more elaborate and more expensive design, one that resulted in a delayed opening.

But now the wait is over: On Friday, starting at 5 pm, ice-skating fans get to experience for themselves part of what their bond money paid for.

We swung by the ribbon last night, as it was being tested, and spoke to a few public officials about what they thought about Riverfront Park's newest feature.

Mayor David Condon
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"It's awesome!" Spokane Mayor David Condon says. "It's awesome!"

And yes, under that fluorescent jacket he's wearing a full suit and tie. He is the mayor, after all.

"You see multiple generations," Condon says. "You see parents and grandparents and kids."

He's speaking from personal experience: He's at the ribbon with his wife and his three kids and his wife's parents.

Asked if the city made the right choice to build an ice ribbon instead of a rink, Condon says he thought so.

"It's unique," Condon says. "That's what we were going for, was to build off of a strong foundation but do something unique. The first time I saw one of these was in Washington D.C. Who would have guessed we'd be the only 'ice ribbon' in the west coast."

He says it gives people one more reason to come downtown and gives teenagers another thing to do.

Condon says the new location, right across from the River Park Square and Spokane City Hall, is a big upgrade from the old location, more out of the way under the Pavilion.

"To be honest, I've been back in Spokane almost 13 years now," Condon says. "It was out of sight and out of mind. But when it's out here, it kind of reminds you of New York and being in the middle of the city."

So far, Condon says, the community reaction has been resoundingly positive.

"I saw on Facebook the other day, 800 or some positive comments off of one of our posts [about the ice ribbon]," Condon says. "There was one that was an unhappy face. I thought, 'Well, ya can't win 'em all."

I suggested that the mayor should track down the Facebook commenter responsible for the one unhappy face and convince him he's wrong.

"I looked him up," Condon jokes, laughing. "I clicked on his profile and he didn't have his phone number on it... I'm like, 'Who are YOU that don't want ice?!"

Park Board President Chris Wright

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"It's very satisfying to be at this point," Park Board President Chris Wright says. "A lot of work. A lot of volunteer hours went into this."

And there's a lot more to come in the next few months, particularly on the south bank of the park.

He appreciates the advantages of the ribbon design, though recognizes that there are some who are disappointed to lose the traditional rink

"We'd get letters from hockey players and figure skaters who lamented the loss of the rink.
But hockey wasn't that big of a part of our revenue in the building," Wright says, "And this is a lot more exciting."

Wright says there's long been a debate about whether there's enough ice in Spokane, and it generally comes down to whether you like Eagles Ice Arena or not.

Still, the final design included at least one element that wasn't in the initial ribbon designs: A considerable mini-rink at the east end of the rink, where a few amateur figure skaters practiced their twirls, jumps and pirouettes.

"It's much bigger than I expected. I kind of hoped it would be big enough for curling, but it isn't," Wright says. "It would have been nice to accommodate curling. Oh, well."

Wright also generously tested out the safety of the ice by biffing it at least once.


Downtown Spokane President Mark Richard

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All the families at the ice rink — with the hot chocolate for sale near the firepits — it makes Downtown Spokane Partnership president Mark Richard think about his childhood.

"When I grew up, my mom was an avid skater," says Richard. "Even to this day, we watch ice-skating, because that's how I grew up. I'm not any good at it, but I watch it. My mom used to take us out on Manito pond ... It's a lot of great memories."

This has been nearly years in making, Richard says, from the initial days of the Riverfront Park Bond Steering Committee.

"Just going from a point where we were on the Steering Committee to visualizing and having some initial sketches to considering this crazy thing called an ice ribbon?" Richard says. "To actually having my skates on the ice? It's just pretty neat."

As for the debate over a rink versus a ribbon? He's pro-ribbon.

"I love it! The ice is interesting: It's got a decline down there, so you get buzzing around the corner!" he says, motioning to the west side of the rink. "You can stop around the corner to get by the firepit ... For a novice, it's a little tough."

He compares it to Rockefeller Center, with a big Christmas tree and everything.

"I can't wait for opening day," Richard says.  "I'm just proud of Spokane," Richard says.

Check out some of these other shots and GIFS from last night at the Ice Ribbon:

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