Cool idea: Ice palace planners to go for record

Architect John Culligan describes plans for a record-breaking ice palace at the Capitol during next year's Super Bowl. Brian Bakst | MPR News.

Planners of a 2018 Super Bowl-timed ice palace on the Capitol lawn are going for a record-breaker, with a structure so tall they'd need a special variance from the state to pull it off.

The St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation and an architecture firm behind the palace provided a sneak peak Thursday to the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board ahead of a full-blown announcement in coming weeks.

They said the goal is for it to reach 170 feet at its apex, which would break a current world record of 166 feet set in Minnesota in 1992 -- also during a Super Bowl.

"We really think of this as a Minnesota project, so we're thinking bigger than ourselves," said Roseanne Bump, president and chief executive officer of the foundation. She said the palace would draw visitors across town from the Super Bowl's epicenter of U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

State lawmakers gave clearance for the palace during the recent session, including a special liquor license. The Capitol planning board might have to issue the variance, though, for the structure to exceed certain height limits.

Architect John Culligan with Cunningham Group in Minneapolis said it will be constructed on the lower mall, with dramatic views of the Capitol and downtown St. Paul on either side. To be sure thick enough ice is available, it would be harvested and trucked in from Detroit Lakes in northwestern Minnesota.

"We're not trying to develop our grandparent's ice palace. We're looking to develop a series of modern ice spires that aren't going to be competing with the traditional beauty of the Capitol. It's really a series of ice shards if you will that also represent the history and tradition of the carnival," Culligan said of the Winter Carnival symbols.

The spires will be varying heights, with the lowest about 40 feet and the tallest hitting the 170-foot mark. He said there will be gateways and a courtyard, perhaps with a stage for music acts. People would be kept about 50 feet away from the actual ice towers for insurance liability reasons.

"This is an opportunity to present the wonders of Minnesota. I mean we are welcoming the world to Minnesota," Culligan said. "What better place to do that on our front lawn, at the Capitol mall, with a wonderful Super Bowl ice palace."

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