Forecasting the ‘Castle of the North Wind’

An ice castle made with traditional ice blocks, like this ‘86 St. Paul Winter Carnival ice castle, is planned for winter 2018 in Vadnais Heights.

VADNAIS HEIGHTS – During his first moments as mayor, Bob Fletcher outlined his dream for an ice castle in the city during the 2018 Super Bowl. 

He has been in contact with officials of the St. Paul Winter Carnival about being the official “Castle of the North Wind” during the 2018 carnival. If that falls through, maybe the 2018 Vadnais Heights ice castle dream can still be achieved with a “Frozen” theme, Fletcher noted. 

Fletcher helped lay the ice for an ice castle in St. Paul in 1986, harvested from Lake Phalen. He also helped with the 1992 castle built on Harriet Island during a Super Bowl year. 

“Looking at the smiles on kids faces … this was a magical experience,” Fletcher recalled. He wants to bring that same experience to Vadnais Heights.

“I’m always looking for ways to bring people to Vadnais, to put us on the map,” he said.  

The ice castle would likely be about 40- to 50-feet high. The St. Paul Winter Carnival is planning a castle about 170 feet high during the Super Bowl in 2018, Fletcher reported, likely made of “refrigerated panels.”

The Vadnais Heights castle would be made out of “traditional ice blocks,” Fletcher said, like the ice castles he helped build in the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

An architect who has designed previous St. Paul ice castles, Bill Rust, would likely be the Castle of the North Wind’s architect. Fletcher said the St. Paul castle won’t be using his services in 2018. 

“So he wants to help us here,” Fletcher said. 

There are two possible sites for the ice castle. One possible site is an area of three empty lots behind Perkins, Fairfield and the Helene Houle Medical Center. Fletcher, already in partnership with the Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corporation (VHEDC) on the ice castle, has received support from the nearby businesses and two property owners of the empty lots. 

He is still waiting to hear back from one more lot owner. If approved, there would be room for parking, the castle and a “winter wonderland” activity area. 

Another optional site is an empty lot next to Summit Orthopedics near Wal-Mart. If that site was chosen, a parking partnership with Wal-Mart would be pursued. 

Fletcher thinks the ice castle, which would be built and run by private fundraising and volunteers, would greatly benefit the city – economically and by creating visibility. 

“The boon to business for that 10-day period is substantial – plus an identity,” Fletcher said. 

Fletcher and Ling Becker, executive director of the VHEDC, have spoken with the Vadnais Heights City Center Task Force about the idea and are in the process of putting together a steering committee for the ice castle. 

“Businesses are on board,” Becker said. “They were really excited about this idea.” She noted businesses would likely sponsor ice blocks. 

The ice castle may be in partnership the “Great Northern,” an initiative by Eric Dayton, Gov. Mark Dayton’s son, to market area winter events on one website. 

“He is trying to bring all the winter events together,” Fletcher noted. Winter events already on board include the St. Paul Winter Carnival, City of Lakes Loppet and U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.

Fletcher is hopeful the St. Paul Carnival will also partner with “Castle of the North Wind” in the works. 

“We are in the very preliminary stage,” he said. “The sky is really the limit in the possibilities for fun.”  

Fletcher suggested Councilwoman Heidi Gunderson could be the ice castle queen or princess. “Count me in,” she said, on her first night on the council. 

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