A 700-pound chunk of ice swung onto a concrete slab in St. Paul's Rice Park Tuesday morning, the first of about 4,000 blocks that will make an ice palace for the Winter Carnival and, organizers hope, help deliver Super Bowl visitors as well.
"When we didn't go with the first palace project, we heard from the public, that they wanted this," said Jennifer Tamburo, board chair of the St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation, as she stood on the slab that was poured Monday.
"We realized what we were trying to accomplish, it was record breaking, and that was fantastic," Tamburo said. "But what we really heard loud and clear is that everybody wanted a palace, so that's what we're doing. We're building a palace that everyone can enjoy."
The $800,000 project — funded entirely by sponsorships and donations — is going into high gear, with dozens of construction workers going round the clock to build the structure in front of the George Latimer Central Library.
The palace foundation is a foot-thick concrete slab, poured into a four-foot deep hole dug into Rice Park. Ice block footings are stacked on pallets around the park, all 44-by-22 inches and up to 22 inches thick. The ice was cut from Green Lake, near Spicer, in west-central Minnesota.
Park Construction president Jeff Carlson said workers will sort through them and fashion them into exterior walls and six towering spires. Carlson said there will be 30 to 35 people working around the clock for the next week to 10 days to get the palace built.
When finished, it will be open to the public, free of charge, and center a park full of amenities, including an ice bar, a stage for live music, food trucks and the Winter Carnival's traditional garden of ice sculptures.
It's the latest since the city's last ice palace, built on the vacant Cleveland Circle, facing the Xcel Energy Center for the 2004 NHL All Star Game. The Winter Carnival built another mammoth, 166-foot tall structure in 1992, when Washington and Buffalo played in Super Bowl XXVI at the Metrodome.
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Organizers are still trying to raise about $200,000 of the total project cost, and are selling individual block sponsorships online, staring at $25 and going up to $5,000 for exclusive event and merchandise offerings.