The Olympic mascots were among the first to hit the ice at the new skating rink at Robson Square in Vancouver. ((CBC))

The outdoor skating rink at Robson Square in the heart of downtown Vancouver has been reopened for the first time in nearly 10 years.

The rink will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT seven days a week. Admission is free. Visitors can rent skates for $3 and helmets for $2. The helmets will be free for children.

Even though Vancouver does not get too cold in the winter, Olympics Minister Mary McNeil said she expects the expanded rink will be open about three or four months each year.

"We're looking to keep it open right through to the end of the Paralympics [at the end] of March," said McNeil. "It is a little more challenging in a place like Vancouver to have it open in March, but it should be fine for the winter months."

The outdoor rink has been renamed the GE Plaza after General Electric paid for about one-third of the cost of a $2 million upgrade.

The work on the rink is part of a $40 million renovation of the entire Robson Square complex that is currently wrapping up.

The rink was first opened in 1983, but maintenance issues forced it to close in 2000.

Free concerts and other events will be held at the site during the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games in February and March.