By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ice on Lake Minnetonka this time of year is normal. But ice — soon to be in the form of a crystal castle — is a new and welcomed site even in its early stages.

Bruce Smith and his wife Nancy drove up to Excelsior bay to get a closer look at the Ice Castle.

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“We were just looking to see if the water was spraying out yet and how much of the walls are up,” Smith said.

Excitement in town, much like the frozen foundation, is building.

“Great for the businesses, and bring a lot of people in,” Smith said.

He took the words right out of Evenlyn Miller’s mouth. She’s a manager at Epitome Papers, one of the many shops and restaurants that line Excelsior’s quaint downtown, only a short walk from the castle grounds.

(credit: CBS)

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“Excelsior is a really great, kind of hidden gem in this area in Minnesota. And so it’s really exciting to have new faces come out and see the town and see what we’re all about,” Papers said.

Based on surveys with businesses and guests, an Ice Castle spokesperson said the winter wonderland attraction generates $2-3 million for the local economy.

Ice Castle was schedule to be built in Stillwater for the third year in a row, but construction on the Lift Bridge forced the company to find a new location. The loss for the city along the St. Croix River is a gain for the one next to Lake Minnetonka.

“Stores are seeing if they should stay open later, kind of seeing what we should anticipate,” Miller said.

Normally people flock to Excelsior when the ice out hits in April. Thanks to the castle, ice in might carry just as much anticipation.

“Grandkids will be coming with and whole family,” Smith said.

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Organizers hope to have the Ice Castle open to visitors before Christmas. Tickets are already available.

Jeff Wagner