There will be no Super Bowl edition St. Paul Winter Carnival ice palace rising this winter on Harriet Island. But fans of frozen castles need not be dismayed. For the second year in a row, downtown Stillwater’s Lowell Park will be home to a giant, LED-illuminated, icicle-shrouded ice castle.
The folks running Utah-based Ice Castles LLC certainly wouldn’t mind adding Super Bowl fans to their tens of thousands of anticipated visitors.
“We’ve talked to them about being involved,” Ice Castles CEO Ryan Davis said of conversations with the Minneapolis Super Bowl Host Committee. “I guess I can say that’s still in process.”
Whether the castle along the banks of the St. Croix River becomes a Super Bowl-related attraction matters less to enthused city officials and downtown businesspeople than that it will rise again. Officials estimate that last year’s castle pulled 70,000 people into the downtown at its traditionally sleepiest time — winter.
“I am really excited that the ice castle is coming back. Last year, downtown was filled with happy kids and happy families,” said Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski. “And we are giving them a little bit more room this year.”
The 2016-2017 edition ice castle had to share Lowell Park with Hockey Day in Minnesota festivities, giving the castle a smaller footprint. This winter’s version will take up even more space along the waterfront.
“The only thing the same is the location. Other than that, the castle is completely redesigned from last year,” Davis said of a structure that will cover more than an acre of parkland with 25 million to 30 million pounds of ice and feature 20-foot-tall walls, tunnels, archways, ice slides and water fountains.
Unlike traditional ice palaces, which are made by stacking large blocks of ice cut from rivers or lakes, the Stillwater Ice Castle is created by affixing thousands of icicles together, then spraying and freezing layers of water over the structure. The result is an organic-looking form of ice that, if the weather warms and the castle thaws, poses less risk of collapse.
“You might get dripped on, but that’s about it,” Davis said.
Add hundreds of LED lights that are frozen into the ice and synchronized to music, and “it’s an amazing experience,” he said.
Weather permitting, the castle will be open from December into March.
That’s welcome news to Frank Fabio of Maple Island Brewing and Chuck Dougherty of Water Street Inn. They said last year’s castle drew large crowds — and new customers — downtown at a time when the usual Stillwater traffic has vanished for the season.
“I think it’s going to be something that people will come to again and again,” Fabio said. “It’s a great thing for Stillwater.”
Said Dougherty, whose Inn hosted Sunday afternoon mother-daughter and grandmother-granddaughter teas for castle-goers: “We’ve always talked about how to get more people downtown in the wintertime. This has become a unique thing, kind of magical.”
Jamie Gendreau of Mahtomedi can vouch for that. On a recent warm day, as she was walking through Lowell Park with her young daughter and little boy, she talked of the fun they had last year visiting the castle and seeing Disney characters made of snow, including Olaf from the film “Frozen.”
“That’s good news,” she said of the castle’s return. “We came on a really cold day, but we loved it.”
James Walsh • 651-925-5041