As you may have already seen or heard, community interest in Riverfront Park's newest attraction has greatly surpassed expectations during its first month of operations.
Since opening on Dec. 8, the new ice ribbon has hosted more than 33,000 visitors, and has more than doubled all of 2016's ticket sales for the now-shuttered Ice Palace, which it replaced.
"The sheer number of people coming to the ribbon is a surprise," says Riverfront Park Director Jon Moog.
"We really missed the mark in terms of how much Spokane really embraced this... that has been pretty cool to see, and seeing the vibrancy that it instantly created downtown — that first night made it feel full of life," he adds.
Because the ice ribbon's debut was timed with the holiday season and local schools' winter breaks, park staff expect that visits will decrease in the coming weeks, giving a more realistic picture of the venue's typical demand.
Park staff are also working to alleviate wait times during peak hours by developing an online ticket reservation system so skaters are ensured access when they arrive for a designated session, regardless of how many walk-up visitors there are. Currently, and since opening, park staff have been allotting 150 color-coded admission wristbands to be sold each half hour, which equates to about 300-350 active skaters who could be on the ice at any given time per hour.
"That is one way we monitor how many people are on the ice to keep the experience enjoyable and not overcrowded," Moog explains.
Since skaters often take breaks, the ribbon is unlikely to often reach its capacity of 450 skaters, he adds.
Park staff also foresee that the forthcoming online admissions will address demand for rental skates during busier times. Moog says the park also plans to purchase more skates.
If you end up arriving at the ribbon on a busy day between now and when the online ticket system launches (or if you don't prepay), consider grabbing a bite to eat or a beverage to sip as you wait for your session.
The ice ribbon's ticketing center (which will also serve as the Sky Ride ticketing center when it reopens later this year) is also home to the new Sky Ribbon Cafe, which offers various freshly prepared entrees, snacks and drinks.
Entrées include classic concessions fare like burgers ($8), hot dogs ($5.50), chicken strips ($6.50), chili ($3-$5) and mac and cheese ($5), along with pizza served by the slice ($3) or pie ($12-$15). Guests can also order wraps or a variety of sandwiches (both $8/each) and salads ($7.50): caesar, cobb and spinach. Daily specials and soups also rotate, based on the season.
Sides and snacks include fries, tater tots, bagged chips, yogurt parfaits, fruit cups, ice cream, cookies, candy and muffins ($1.25-$5). Coffee, hot chocolate, fountain sodas, bottled beverages and beer and wine round out the Sky Ribbon Cafe's liquid refreshments.
"We make all the food on site, and one thing we tried to do was improve the quality of ingredients and the menu," Moog explains.
The cafe will be open year-round, and functionally replaces the park's Fountain Cafe nearby. The new Looff Carrousel building will also serve concessions food, he says.
So far, the Ice Ribbon has been impacted by inclement weather requiring its closure just one day this season. Moog says weather events that may cause unscheduled closures include heavy snowfall or rain that accumulates too quickly on the ice for removal by the ice-scraping equipment. Such closures will be posted on Riverfront Park's website, Facebook and Twitter, and he advises visitors to check there first on snowy or rainy days.
When it comes to safety, Moog says the ice ribbon has seen some injuries, including one major accident requiring an emergency room visit.
"It's an inherently dangerous activity, but we've found you're more likely to get an injury when it's less crowded. Some skaters take opportunities to go faster and horseplay more on the ice, and that is when we're really alert looking for people doing unsafe activities," he says. "When it's busier, you have to go with the flow of traffic and you're less likely to get hurt."
Guests should also be aware that the ice requires refinishing every hour and a half, which takes about 20 minutes. Skaters impacted by the refinishing also get a little extra time compensated to their session, Moog says. ♦
Tips When You Go:
To avoid busy times, consider a daytime visit during the week, before 4 pm.
Moog advises skaters, especially novices, wear helmets on the ice as a safety precaution.
Lace your skates up tightly to prevent ankle injury and general discomfort.
Wear lots of layers, like long underwear or leggings under your pants, and don't forget hats, scarves, gloves and a pair of thick, cozy socks.
Bring quarters to secure your shoes and other items in a rentable locker, which cost $1/use (free, unsecure cubbies also are available).
All the Details:
Hours: Sun-Thu from 11 am-9 pm; Fri-Sat from 11 am-10 pm, through March 3
Hourly admission: $6.50/adults; $5.50/seniors, military, college student w/ID; $4.50/ages 2-12
Annual passes: $30/adults; $25/ages 2-12
Contact: spokaneriverfrontpark.com or 509-625-6600