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Ice Castles plans to come to Lake George

LAKE GEORGE — A large-scale ice sculpture attraction is coming to Lake George — news that Warren County officials says is a “game changer” for boosting winter tourism.

Ice Castles executives said they will lease space at the Charles R. Wood Festival Commons for six months. The Warren County Tourism and Occupancy Tax Coordination last week voted to give the business $50,000 for marketing expenses.

The attraction includes castles built from hundreds of thousands of icicles hand-placed by ice artists. The castles are illuminated and furnished with frozen thrones, ice-carved tunnels, slides, fountains and other sculptures, according to the Ice Castles website.

Ice Castles has locations in Colorado, New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin. It had a location in Minnesota, but that one did not open this this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, Mayor Robert Blais hinted of a “winter wonderland” attraction interested in coming to the area. Then, there was some talk the attraction would go to Lake Placid instead because of the weather conditions.

But the company picked Lake George.

The company plans to pay the county $50,000 to lease the property for 6 months. That would help cover the county’s costs for water and electricity.

Warren County Tourism Director Joanne Conley said local officials have been talking with Ice Castles for months. Representatives from the company came to visit in February, she said.

“We think we are a wonderful destination in terms of the market we can attract, the location at Festival Commons overlooking the lake,” she said.

Ice Castles executives believe about 100,000 people would visit the attraction in the winter. Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer said that would be a big boost.

“I hope our businesses will be prepared for that influx of people because normally it is a little sleepy in the winter,” she said.

Braymer also asked whether local residents could get a discount on tickets. She pointed out there is another ice castle attraction in the region, referring to the one in Saranac Lake.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Mike Wild asked if the company could pay back the occupancy tax funds, as the organizers of the Winterfest did.

CEO Kyle Standifird said he would be happy to entertain a payback for the occupancy tax funds and said the company does offer reduced prices for local residents.

Braymer asked if Ice Castles could make a multiyear commitment.

Standifird said, whenever the company enters a new market, the Ice Castles team is looking for somewhere they can be for the long term.

They analyze demographics and other data, including the weather. The weather is slightly on the marginal side (warm) here, he said, but he is optimistic.

“It’s something we’re really excited about — taking that risk,” he said.

Supervisors expressed the hope the attraction would boost snowmobiling and skiing businesses in the North Country.

Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said the attraction could be a good complement to the Lake George Winter Carnival and Winterfest.

The attraction is open for about two months, but the company is renting the commons for six months. Setup and tear-down require a lot of time, Standifird said. Typically, a small crew of construction workers arrive on site in early to mid-October, setting up water lines. Then, construction begins in earnest in mid-November.

“We’ll ramp up our hiring to bring on more people. As the weather gets colder, we can turn the water on and start freezing and growing the ice castles,” he said.

The opening would take place around New Year’s Day, and the attraction would stay open through January and February and possibly into early March, depending on the weather.

Then, crews begin to clean up the site, which can take two months.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty said he has seen a lot of tourism events, but this is at another level.

“This is an absolute game-changer in the wintertime,” he said.

Standifird said he is happy the project is happening.

“We met so many individuals on our trip a couple of months ago, and we’re really impressed by everybody we met, the energy and synergy and the attitude of driving success together for all of our benefit, and I couldn’t be more pleased to work with a group like that,” he said.

Michael Goot covers politics, crime and courts, Warren County, education and business. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com.

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