Sharpen your skates — the long-awaited reopening of the outdoor ice rink at Robson Square kicks off today with a free public skate from noon to 9 p.m.

General Electric spent $1.6 million in the past three years restoring the rink under Howe and Robson streets after it closed in 2000 because of maintenance problems.

The glass-domed GE Ice Plaza will be used as a central location for public celebration during the Vancouver Olympics. Skating is free if you bring your own skates, and $3 to rent. Kids under 12 can rent for free.

Andrea Kay, who has a blog called 2010vanfan, went to Robson Square while the ice was being installed and said it’s a “beautiful venue.”

“It’s a very nice, open space with those big domes … especially at night when the lights are on,” said Kay.

She added that spotlights that feature shapes like snowflakes and stars will be shone on the ice, adding to the atmosphere.

“We do have wonderful things in this city and it’s going to be quite a treat,” said Kay.

Mary McNeil, Liberal MLA for Vancouver-False Creek, said the rink is another great family-oriented venue for people living downtown.

“We’ve gone from 4,300 families to 12,000 … and what that shows is people are becoming more urban and we have to make sure that those urban areas are well-rounded,” McNeil said.

Skating, concerts

• Free public skating will continue daily from noon to 9 p.m. until the start of the 2010 Winter Games.

• The new plaza will also feature live concerts.

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