ICE CASTLES IN THE AIR
The Ice Castle money-making and people-attracting edifice is coming back to Lake Geneva. It can’t help but come back since the company that owns the concept and application of the event and destination admits that the Lake Geneva Ice Castle was the most successful one they’ve ever opened (and they’ve opened castles all over the nation). The company will not provide numbers of how many participants, or how much it made from the event, however. That is proprietary. The Ice Castle outfit was paid $25,000.00 by Visit Lake Geneva to come. It was given free space to set up (closing the beach area for nearly eight months). All kinds of free services were provided (not free, but paid for by the city). During the last plan commission meeting on Monday night, June 17th, a primary topic of discussion was the search for a new location for the Ice Castle attraction.
The talk around town is that Dunn Field is the prospective new spot for next winter’s Ice Castle. This has raised many questions and concerns. Is it close enough to downtown for local businesses to benefit from the crowds it draws? Eastview Elementary School is right there, so how will the kids be kept from the construction area? Would extra patrolling be required? Dunn Field is also next to the Dunn Building (which is already a magnet for vandalism and is, in fact, the most vandalized structure in Lake Geneva). How would parking for the Ice Castle impact this situation? Would there be issues with bussing during school, or during parental drop off and pick up times? Monday night’s plan commission meeting met to discuss these issues.
Jessie Stone, the great guy from the Utah based Ice Castles company, spoke about the location and his dream of creating both a winter and summer attraction here in Lake Geneva. Jessie explained that he spent this last fall and winter here, with his wife and two-year-old child, and they had all instantly fallen in love with the area and community so much so that they purchased their first home in Lake Geneva. Jessie outlined the challenges of the Riviera Beach location. The castle had had very restricted space; the ice, when the lake froze, would shift and damage equipment, the wind was a huge issue blowing the sprinkler water and creating ice in unintended areas, and the beach sand got into everything and caused building issues. The Ice Castle company feels Dunn Field is close enough to downtown, and from its studies over the last eight years, has found that people who purchase tickets to the Ice Castle will also book rooms and eat in the local restaurants.
The Ice Castle Company believes that Dunn Field is the best option. It’s the right size, has the elevation needed, and is near to the White River for the summer events. Of course, as was demonstrated last season, parking could still be an issue. Dunn Field is only accessible from the school parking lot and Waverly Street. Waverly Street is a very small residential street with no room for parking. Jessie then spoke with passion regarding his love for the land, and his idea of caring for and improving the waterway. Ideally, the summer attraction would include some water activities on the White River. Jessie implied that the company would like to get the ball rolling now and start on clean-up of the river. The chatter in the audience could be heard as Jessie spoke about caring for the land and acting in an environmentally sound manner. The owners and managers of the company believe that they helped local businesses, as well as brought employment opportunities to the area by hiring ninety-two local residents.
No decisions were made at the plan commission meeting, though, as this was just the discussion phase. The entire plan and details will have to be revisited and then go through the approval process. It might be wise to consider not only not paying the company to come, but also to require that it show how much money it makes from putting on the event, and how many people attend. Some sharing with Lake Geneva might be in order!