LOS ANGELES — Sashaying and swirling on the ice to blaring pop music with Mayor Richard Riordan, about 30 children Tuesday inaugurated the new outdoor skating rink at Pershing Square downtown.
"This is Rockefeller Center West," Riordan said, referring to the famed New York City ice rink, "but in the best city in the country."
The temporary 50-by-80-foot rink, seemingly out of step beneath L.A. palm trees, is the latest effort by the city to breathe new life into its oldest park. For years, Pershing Square had been little more than scruffy grass and stunted trees, where homeless people gathered and others stayed away.
Five years ago, it reopened after a $14.5-million redesign that added colorful pavilions, a tide pool fountain and a concert stage.
At the rink, as a jeans-clad Riordan strapped on skates, children clapped in sync, chanting: "Go mayor! Go mayor!" The fifth- and sixth-graders from 68th Street School then swarmed around him and began to twirl and skate.
Ten-year-old Monique Allen, who had ice skated only once before, was already gliding backward, swishing her hips for perfect balance. "Once you get the hang of it, it's not hard," she said.
But skating neophyte Jesus Ruiz, 9, was often on his hands and knees. "I fell like 20 times," he said.
Riordan, who plays on a senior ice hockey team in Culver City, flaunted his dexterity. After boogieing in a train with the kids, he waltzed with Christina Anderson, a professional skater dressed as Raggedy Ann.
The rink will be open seven days a week until Jan. 3, said Vicki Israel, who supervises the square for the Parks and Recreation Department. Its main corporate sponsor, the L.A. Kings, is donating money, and team members will lead ice hockey workshops.
Surveying the rink from her hat stand nearby, Milliner Lynda Burdick, an L.A. native, approved.
"It gives this place a sense of community, which this city doesn't have."