SPOKANE, Wash.– Riverfront Park staff shut down the Spokane Falls Skyride when temperatures exceed 85 degrees because it gets even hotter inside the cabins. On average, that happens about 50 days a year in Spokane. Riverfront Park’s assistant manager Debby Dodson said that is 50 days too many that visitors can’t enjoy Spokane’s best view of the lower falls.
With the park board’s encouragement, Riverfront Park reached out to Doppelmayr, the company that installed the updated gondolas back in 2006. Doppelmayr agreed to return to Spokane, at no cost to the city, to try to come up with a solution to make the gondolas cooler.
Doppelmayr’s vice president of sales, Randy Woolwine, said air conditioning isn’t a viable option since they have no way to get power to the cabins. Additionally, there is not a battery on the market that would last the entire 20-minute ride.
“The reason they put in air conditioning in cars is because driving around with the windows down was not keeping them cool enough,” Woolwine said. “This is like a car with the windows rolled down instead of with the windows rolled up, which is going to be a substantial improvement.”
The modified gondola has open sections on both sides of the cabin, which would allow air to flow through the center. It has been placed back on the Skyride, not for public use, but for temperature testing. Temperature gauges will be compared between the retrofitted gondola and one without the changes to see whether the changes are different. Riverfront Park is particularly interested in how the gondola will do in temperatures above 85 degrees, and are still waiting for a few days that hot to run the tests.
“We first want to make sure it’s gonna work, but we’re fairly confident it is gonna be a possible solution for us,” Dodson said. “Then we’ll find some funding down the road, but we’re not quite sure how much it’s gonna cost per car yet.”
Dodson said the Skyride ridership could increase by 10 percent if staff don’t have to shut it down in the heat.