In 1947 an earthquake of medium magnitude struck Southern Wisconsin. The temblor struck and the shaking lasted for forty seconds. People evacuated buildings and structural damage was reported in many areas, although nobody was killed. Another smaller earthquake occurred back in 1929, but records of the effects of that quake are scanty, at best. The three largest earthquakes ever recorded in the nation took place back in 1811, and the effects of the New Madrid series of quakes is legend up and down the Mississippi basin. The river ran backward, due to subsidence of land for some time. It was reported that church bells rang for up to 15 minutes in Canada. The shoreline of Lake Michigan was affected and changed. Today, many of the chimneys of the older expensive homes located on the Geneva Shore lakefront are still inoperable due to damage caused by the 1947 quake (including those in Stone Manor).
Why is this discussion of earthquakes in the Midwest relevant? Last winter a company came to Lake Geneva and built a three-story high structure made entirely of ice, and then populated it with customers numbering in the hundreds, day in and day out for several months. Ice, frozen hard at very low temperatures, has approximately one/fifth (1/5th) the strength of glass, and even less as the temperature rises above zero degrees Fahrenheit. The new ice castle proposed for the coming year is touted to be four times the size of the one that was built in 2018. At four times the size, how tall would this new one be? Given the variable temperatures that often occur during winter in Southern Wisconsin, and the possibility of an earthquake, any earthquake, and finally the poor structural strength of ice as a building material, who, or what entity, wants to absorb the potential liability for building such a basically unsupported ice structure, and then allowing a thousand or more visitors to wander around inside it?
If the structure were to collapse, what first responder department, or combination of locally available ones, would be on hand to get to the people crushed or trapped below the tons of ice? Aside from geologic safety issues (affirmed fully by the well known local architect Tom Kincaid of Williams Bay), the Ice Castle continues to remain controversial because of several other very vital and pertinent issues.
1. The LLC corporation did not publish it’s revenue or attendance figures from last year.
2. The Ice Castle people were allowed to come to Lake Geneva in hopes that they would add thousands of visitors during the harshest time of winter in order to help local businesses succeed (hence the beach location), but now they have asked to be located out of the center of town, either in Dunn Field or quite possibly at the Grand Geneva.
3. The Lake Geneva Tourism Commission has agreed to grant $150,000.00 of tax money, as an incentive to the Ice Castle, without getting any revenue sharing from it (since the idea of performing in the downtown area and helping the community is diminished by these locations).
4. The Dunn Field potential location would be built in close to the elementary school and parking would still be a huge issue, with the kids running around all over, and the vagaries of Wisconsin weather to deal with.
5. The Ice Castle needs tons of water (free), which was no problem when they were located right next to the lake, but that is not necessarily the case in other locations.
The final question becomes; “is the whole frozen carnival thing worth it to Lake Geneva?’ Without actual revenue and gate numbers (no, surveys will not do) there is no way to tell. The Castle was scheduled for consideration by the city council on Monday. It was a ‘no show,’ as it also will be for the school district meeting (it needs district approval too). Rumor has it that the Castle is going to meet with the Grand Geneva people. Lake Geneva provides the water for the Grand Geneva, so perhaps city administration might ask the Grand Geneva how much it intends to pay for the extra water that will be needed.