SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - San Francisco is inviting people to strap on their skates and visit the city's newest Winter Park at Civic Center Plaza. But, kids in the surrounding neighborhoods might be the biggest beneficiaries.
Civic Center Plaza is located next to one of the most economically challenged neighborhoods in the city. The Tenderloin is just a block away and now the city is saying this winter wonderland is part of an effort to transform this area and make families feel welcome.
With a ride on a Zamboni, Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano officially opened the Winter Park at Civic Center Plaza.
The city says it chose this location deliberately. For some kids living nearby this is their first chance to glide, or in some cases inch, their way across the ice.
"Yes! This is my first time," said Maliya. "It's very hard!"
Phil Ginsburg from the city's Recreation and Parks Department says the aim is to make sure that kids from economically challenged areas are provided new opportunities.
"Kids from the Tenderloin aren't going to Union Square, and they're not going to the Embarcadero and they may not be going to Golden Gate Park, this is their neighborhood park," said Ginsburg. "So, to bring this park to kids here in this area is really profound."
Mayor London Breed says the ice rink is part of a comprehensive strategy to transform Civic Center Plaza into a destination for families living in the area and out. "We have more school children in the Tenderloin than anywhere else in the city," said Mayor Breed. "There's a playground there but we also want to activate this space so that they have another place to come to."
Part of the agreement for the rink includes making sure all kids living in the Tenderloin get to skate for free through their schools. The hope is some of these little skaters will fall in love with the sport. "It's so hard, I don't even know how to do it," said Mary. who despite a few falls said she wants to try again.
Gold medalist Brian Boitano says it's important to make sure all kids have access to skating and other sports regardless of family income. "I was inspired because I went to Detroit years ago and saw an inner city skate program that was doing this for the youth, and I thought I want to do this in San Francisco if there's ever a rink that can handle it," said Boitano.