By Bill Hudson

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s a St. Paul Winter Carnival tradition dating back to 1886, when the very first ice palace was built. Through the years they’ve come in many designs and sizes, but always constructed solely from large blocks of lake ice.

The costliest and grandest ever constructed was the 1992 castle erected in conjunction with Minnesota hosting the Super Bowl. Attendance for the spectacle drew visitors from around the world.

“It’s our legend,” the Winter Carnival’s Jennifer Tamburo said. “I mean, here we are on the first day of winter — it’s cold and this is what we do, we celebrate winter.”

Just when it seemed that public support for a 2018 ice palace was coming up short, forcing planners to scuttle the idea, came a surprise announcement.

“An ice palace will be built in January 2018 in Rice Park for the great community of St. Paul,” Dan Stoltz said, standing across the street from the park.

The palace will rise 70 feet high, anchoring Rice Park’s royal courtyard where ice carvings and concession stands will also reside. The castle’s seven lit spires are being built from 4,000 blocks of ice, each weighing about 500-pounds. It will require some 50 truckloads of the ice, harvested from Green Lake near New London-Spicer, to construct the palace.

When it opens in late January 2018, it will be free to the public.

“St. Paul needs an attraction and again, it’s free for the family,” Stoltz said. “This will be a spectacle for the Super Bowl. This will be an icon throughout the game.”

Televised coverage of the Super Bowl Feb. 4 should give the ice palace prime exposure. It will cost about $800,000 to harvest, transport and construct the ice into a palace. That is less than half the cost of the 1992 ice palace, which cost nearly $2 million.

The committee has already collected some $600,000 in private financing and is now asking for public donations through a “buy a block” crowd funding project.

If you’d like to chip in and sponsor a block more information is available on their website.

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