For the last couple of weeks, a handful of men have gathered in the dark at the Numerica Skate Ribbon in Riverfront Park just before midnight. Dressed in heavy winter coveralls, beanies and boots with cleats, they work through the night focused on one goal: to get the ice ready so the skate ribbon could open.
This is the fourth winter the ribbon will draw skaters big and small downtown. Riverfront Park’s programming and marketing manager Amy Lindsay is very excited about the opening.
“The ribbon and the rest of the park is going to look amazing this winter,” Lindsay said.
COVID means the number of skaters is limited, and face masks and gloves must be worn at all times. Skaters are encouraged to bring and wear their own helmets. Skates have to be rented and tickets purchased in advance online.
“We easily get 300 skaters every day,” Lindsay said, “So things are going to be just a little different this year.”
As with any winter activity, everything hinges on the weather. The temperature of the finished ice is around 12-17 degrees and it will hold up fine until the ambient temperature reaches 45 degrees.
Jonathan Moog, the director of Riverfront Spokane, said direct sunlight is the biggest challenge for the ice so that’s why the ice is built at night. He has spent some cold nights on the ice with his staff working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.
Below the ice runs miles of tubing, carefully strung three inches apart and full of a super cooled saltwater brine. The skating ice is built layer by layer using a handheld spray nozzle and warm water from a hose. The warm water binds instantly with the ice – the crew waits for a half hour or so between applications.
“Ice skating around the ribbon downtown has quickly become an iconic Spokane experience, and with some significant changes in place, we’re thrilled to open this year.” Moog said.