Downtown Stillwater’s riverfront will once again be transformed into a winter wonderland this year, with the return of Ice Castles LLC.
The company, which has built ice castles in Eden Prairie, Bloomington and other locations across the country, made its Stillwater debut with a frozen structure next to the gazebo in Lowell Park last year. On Oct. 3 it got the nod from the city council to build another castle in the same location this winter.
According to Amanda Roseth, site manager for Ice Castles LLC, the company had wanted to build farther north in Lowell Park this year, on Mulberry Point where there’s more space, but soil samples raised concern that the ground couldn’t support the weight of the ice.
"It was a high risk of shifting the soil, and they were concerned about it pushing against the retaining wall," Roseth said. "It was not something that they or we were willing to risk."
Roseth told the city council that the last season proved successful, despite uncooperative weather.
"It was a short season, but we did find it was a tourist destination," she said. "We had great numbers during maybe the month that we were open. What we did find is people stay longer and they spend more money in Stillwater."
City council members said they were pleased with the operations last year.
Mayor Ted Kozlowski said traffic downtown didn’t seem overwhelming. His one request was to explore whether something could be done to get the ice to melt faster once spring comes.
"It seemed like last year ... that was down there a longtime afterward," he said. "That was really the only complaint I heard."
He said access to the waterfront was limited, so he’d at least like to see Sam Bloomer Way — the road that runs in front of the gazebo, opened sooner, if possible.
Roseth said the company could explore options.
The council unanimously approved a contract for this year’s ice castle.
Preliminary site work could begin before the end of October, with activity ramping up in November, Roseth said. She expects crews to begin spraying water for ice in December, weather permitting.
The castle is scheduled to be open in January and February.
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