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Heartland of America Park skate ribbon taking shape along Omaha riverfront

WOWT 6 News Live at 10
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 10:06 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As construction continues on the Heartland of America Park along Omaha’s riverfront, one amenity is slowly coming to life: the skate ribbon.

“At this point, infrastructure has been successfully completed for this amenity meaning both rebar and conduit have been installed, and that means in 2022 you’ll start to see more of the exciting features pop up on the ground like the hand railings that will go around the skate ribbon and within, as well as benches that will go inside,” says Kristyna Engdahl, director of communications at the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority.

“The skate ribbon is what we’re describing as about a 300-foot racetrack, where you have this surrounding perimeter track that which allows you to go in a circle but also within there’s going to be little rinks for more traditional skating, that way we can accommodate people of all needs, of all capabilities,” Engdahl adds.

The concrete ribbon will allow for ice skating in the winter, as well as roller and inline skating in the summer.

“The whole point of the riverfront is activation, whether that’s through big, permanent amenities like the skate ribbon or the abundance of programming that we’ll plan year-round down here. We really want there to be something for everyone to do down at the riverfront and so the inclusion of this amenity just gives one more thing that people can come down and enjoy year-round.”

Engdahl adds that other activities will likely take place there, too.

“We already have a growing list of program partners that are looking at things like, is it skate lessons, dance lessons, is it workout activities, book clubs, all sorts of things that will lure a variety of different people to the riverfront for a variety of activations.”

The ribbon will include glycol lines that are connected to a nearby chiller, Engdahl explains. When the weather starts getting colder, the chiller will pump liquid onto the surface of the ribbon to make the ice and keep it cool on days where the weather is above freezing.

Infrastructure for the ribbon’s neighboring maintenance building will also begin. The building will be home to the chillers and Zamboni, as well as skate rentals in the winter.

For many, the new attraction is welcome news.

“I think that this ribbon is going to be a really unique way for people to be introduced to skating, what a fun way to spend time with your kids and your family and friends and get to try skating, you know it’s something you can do young and young at heart as well,” says Andrea Kunz-Williamson, the skating director at the Figure Skating Club of Omaha.

Kunz-Williamson heard about the ribbon several years ago during the early planning stages.

“They reached out to some of the local user groups at the arenas and wanted to get our involvement from the very beginning, so I had an opportunity to sit in and do a zoom meeting with them and see all the plans and start thinking about how we can be involved with the new attraction.”

The ribbon comes at a time when figure skating’s popularity is growing. Kunz-Williamson says there’s always an increased interest around the Winter Olympics, but throughout the pandemic, officials with U.S. Figure Skating say interest in the sport’s Learn-to-Skate programs have been increasing nationwide.

“Our classes are booming right now, so it’s wonderful to be able to get the word out even more, have more people get involved in skating and try it, and hopefully fall in love with the sport,” Kunz-Williamson says. “We have a lot of venues for indoor and outdoor skating here in Omaha, and this one will just be so special and what a unique way to try it.”

Omaha’s ribbon draws inspiration from Chicago’s Maggie Daley skate ribbon. Engdahl says parks around the country were surveyed before deciding on the skate ribbon.

“Having a space like this is going to be invaluable, especially when it comes to reconnecting our downtown area. I think the previous complaint about our park space is that they were sloping, hard to get to, kind of inaccessible, by bringing not only a change where Heartland of America Park is at street level instead of being really hilly, now we can have better interconnection between north downtown and the Old Market, which really creates a cohesiveness in our downtown area and makes for a thriving city in general.”

The skate ribbon, along with the rest of the Heartland of America Park will be complete in 2023. For progress updates on the riverfront revitalization project, you can visit the website here.

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