SIOUX CITY | Noah Jones grinned as he described the thrills of his first few trips down Cone Park's tubing hill Thursday.
"You can't feel your face," he said. "It's fast."
The 9-year-old was among the first members of the public to ride to the bottom of the 700-foot snow-covered slope during the park's evening opening.
The long-awaited Cone Park officially opened at 5 p.m. Thursday. In the first half-hour, a few users trickled in to see firsthand the high-profile park they had been waiting months to check out.
Just prior to the opening, Jim Larson sat bundled up with his two sons, Reed and Luke, in the warming lodge waiting to hit the slope, and described his family's anticipation.
"We're super excited," he said. "It's been quite some time ago that they were planning it and we heard about it. Then we saw the construction going on."
Along with the tubing hill, Cone Park features a fire pit, day lodge and refrigerated ice skating, the last of which is expected to be up and running in mid-January. In the off-season months, when the winter features shut down, park-goers will be able to enjoy a two-mile trail loop and a splash pad. The day lodge will also be available for event rentals.
The park's typical hours will be 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. However, the park will have special holiday hours starting Friday and continuing until Jan. 2 (see sidebar).
The park will also feature $10 "Cosmic Tubing" sessions featuring LED lights and music on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The park is located at 3800 Line Drive, near the IBP Ice Center and Lewis and Clark Park. Admission ranges between $7 and $10, depending on the time of day. Tubing sessions last four hours apiece, and people who come in the middle of a session can either pay to tube during the current session or wait until the next one.
After what had been a warmer start to the week, city recreational specialist John Byrnes said the dropping temperatures -- which also brought a few snowflakes Thursday afternoon -- were ideal for the park's inaugural weekend.
"The weather is finally changing for us for the better," he said. "We were really able to manipulate the hill to how we want it to be -- a thrilling ride, but safe."
Part of that added safety included dividing the hill into individual lanes and adding texture at the base of the hill to slow down the tubes.
Byrnes said parks staff were anticipating a slightly smaller crowd on Thursday, but that reservations were "exploding" for the weekend.
Pre-registration is available online at webtrac.sioux-city.org, or by calling 712-279-6126 or visiting the Parks and Recreation Office at 401 Gordon Drive.