The dark, cold January nights will be brighter in the southeast Twin Cities metro in 2023 when the Minnesota Ice Maze moves from Stillwater to Eagan, becoming part of the Viking Lakes development's Winter Skolstice celebration.
For two years, the maze has been a midwinter attraction in Stillwater, drawing more than 30,000 visitors in the depths of January and February. To build in Stillwater, the maze partnered with the Zephyr Theatre, which halted productions and laid off staff in October.
Minnesota Ice CEO and owner Robbie Harrell went in search of a new location in the past two weeks, and Minnesota Viking Lakes came in with the offer of a bigger site that will make staging and construction of the maze easier. Harrell was diplomatic about the abrupt move out of the Washington County suburb.
"We obviously love Stillwater, it's a great town," Harrell said, but "the partnership with Viking Lakes seemed like a really good opportunity for us."
The maze will be built on a surface parking lot that is flatter and larger than the Stillwater site, he said.
Kyle Chank, general manager at Viking Lakes, said the maze will be a perfect fit for the second year of "Winter Skolstice" activities planned at the development just south of Interstate 494 and east of Dodd Road. The 200-acre site has been the headquarters of the Minnesota Vikings since 2018.
Winter Skolstice, a play on the NFL Vikings' skol chant and the site's Nordic designs, was created to get people outdoors and active at the live-work-play development that also is home to Twin Cities Orthopedics, USA Curling, the Vikings Museum and Locker Room Store, Røkkr e-sports, Arete sports and Training HAUS.
The addition of the maze "makes complete sense with our mission and value of getting people to live out in the fresh air," Chank said.
This year, the maze will again have almost 2,000 feet of lighted pathway among eight-foot high walls. There will be ice sculpture demonstrations and statues. Minnesota Ice created many of the photogenic ice sculptures for events surrounding the 2018 Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium and the NHL Winter Classic at Target Field last Jan. 1.
Harrell promises lots of surprises to give the maze and event a fresh feel. The maze will also broaden the passageways from 40 inches to 70 inches. "There will be a little bit more space to spread out," he said.
Harrell said the new location "helps elevate the maze."
The maze also will be an undeniable boost for the Skolstice events.
Weather permitting, Winter Skolstice and the maze will share the same hours from Jan. 6-Feb. 19. Generally, it will run from 4-10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. Organizers are hoping for a bump in attendance of at least 25% to 40,000 visitors.
Fire pits help keep visitors warm and the Warming Haus, a large heated tent between the ponds and the maze, will have a full-service bar and sell pizzas from Kyndred Hearth, the restaurant inside the Omni Viking Lakes Hotel run by renowned Twin Cities chef Ann Kim.
Skolstice events are free, but require preregistration. The maze, which has timed entries, is $24.99 for adults and $12.99 for kids ages 5-14. Younger kids enter free and tickets go on sale Monday. Tickets are available at the site, subject to availability. Parking is free in the lots near the TCO Stadium, 2645 Vikings Circle.
The official announcement will be made Monday morning during an event at the site with KFAN Radio Show.