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Expected $15M pricetag for Super Bowl ice palace proves too costly for St. Paul Winter Carnival

The 1992 St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace on Harriet Island in St. Paul. Richard Marshall / St. Paul Pioneer Press
  1. PAUL — A proposed supersized ice palace for the 2018 St. Paul Winter Carnival to coincide with Super Bowl LII has been canceled, organizers announced Wednesday, Oct. 11.

The ice palace was to be built with private donations on the Minnesota Capitol grounds. Organizers said they were unable to raise the $5 million they needed to guarantee the costs of building and operating the palace would be covered.

Ice Cold Events, the group set up to fund and build the ice palace, initially hoped to raise as much as $15 million, said Rosanne Bump, executive director of the group.

But — noting that the $1.1 million palace for the 1992 Super Bowl in Minneapolis buried the St. Paul Winter Carnival Association in debt — the group was wary, Bump said.

“What we wanted to do, at the end of the day, is be financially sound. We really needed a title sponsor,” she said. “That was something that was really important to us.”

Former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer said he was disappointed by the news and recalled the volunteer efforts of hundreds of St. Paul builders in the construction of the 1986 ice palace.

“I’m very sad, because obviously it’s a great piece of history,” Latimer said. “When I read about the financial need (for the 2018 effort), I found that off-putting.”

Bump said that without the $5 million minimum budget the project could not move forward.

“We needed to know we could pay our bills for what was a very complex project and just could not make that work,” Bump said.

The 2018 Winter Carnival will be extended a week to coincide with other Super Bowl activities Jan. 25 to Feb. 10. The Super Bowl is Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation, which oversees the Winter Carnival and created Ice Cold Events, first announced its ice palace plans in August.

The ice palace team invested “a considerable amount of time” investigating everything from architecture and engineering services to where to harvest ice, said Jennifer Tamburo, chair of the St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation’s board. They also were working with potential funding sponsors.

“We are disappointed to announce that we were not able to secure financial support to cover costs to allow the project to move forward,” Tamburo said in a message to foundation members. “We sincerely appreciate your understanding of the decisions made and above all your commitment and support of the St. Paul Winter Carnival.”

The 1992 palace coincided with the last Super Bowl held in Minneapolis and drew 2 million visitors. Its record height — 166 feet — made it memorable, but so did its pricetag.

Construction, lighting, security and other costs associated with the ice palace totaled $1.9 million — twice as much as estimated. These bills drove the St. Paul Winter Carnival Association out of business.

Although it was able to reduce its roughly $800,000 debt by more than half, the Winter Carnival Association failed to raise enough cash to pay its creditors and folded in 1993. The St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation was created to replace it that same year.

Vadnais Heights’ bid earlier this year to host and build an ice palace during the Super Bowl fizzled when the owner of the property where the city wanted to build the complex decided against leasing the land.