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Ice events returning to Stillwater

The ice palace maze was created last year in response to the Zephyr theatre not being allowed to host any indoor events because of COVID restrictions. Even without those restrictions in place the theatre will construct the maze again this year. (Gazette file photo)

By Matt DeBow / Dec 10, 2021  A downtown ice rink will return to Stillwater for its second year. The rink will be constructed in the city of Stillwater’s parking lot 4 next to the Water Street Inn.

The Stillwater City Council unanimously approved, 5-0, during its meeting on Dec. 7, closing parking lot 4 for the Water Street Inn to create the outdoor ice rink from Jan. 8 to Feb. 28.

Chuck Dougherty, owner of the Water Street Inn, requested in the application that the ice rink be set up until March 20; however, City Clerk Beth Wolf noted that a earlier Feb. 28 closure will match the closure of other city ice rinks.

Ice rink event organizers are planning to use the space for the following organized events: Pond Hockey, St. Croix Curling, Winterfest and Fire & Ice, the memo states.

Last year, the ice rink was created as part of the Wintertime in Stillwater that was developed to assist local businesses during the pandemic by creating winter activities in the city. Wintertime in Stillwater is continuing this year in an effort to make the city become a year-round destination.

Dougherty’s request is nearly identical to last year’s request, however, Wolf noted they wanted the Water Street in to place a “Please walk your bike” sign on the trail next the inn.

When the rink is not being used for events, it will be open for public skating. The rink will be set up starting on the southern and eastern edges of the parking lot. The event organizer will pay for the installation of the 40 by 116 foot rink,

Dougherty will also pay for upkeep and insurance coverage. The Water Street Inn also will provide public bathrooms (that are available in the hotel), use of the ballroom area for a warming space and team meeting area, and use of heaters on the Water Street Inn’s outside patio.

The city will provide use of city hydrants for the first two floodings, and after that the rink will use water from the hotel. The city will remove snow piles from outside of rink as needed (clearing snow off the rink is the organizer’s responsibility)

In the council’s approval it agreed to waive all city fees following a recommendation from downtown parking commission because the ice rink is a community amenity.

As part of the application the event organizer requested, and the council approved, alcohol will be served in the city’s parking lot.

Complementing sauna denied

Following the council’s decision to allow an ice rink on the city’s parking lot, councilors unanimously denied a request to put a mobile sauna on the other portion of the parking lot that was closed because of the ice rink.

Mayor Ted Kozlowski said that the city doesn’t generally allow private businesses to operate on city property to make a profit such as food trucks; however, the mayor liked the idea, and even offered the owners help to find a spot on private property to place their mobile sauna.

Before the council denied the application, one of the owners noted that unlike food trucks, the mobile sauna wouldn’t compete with any other downtown businesses that are banned on city property.

In the application, the owners of St. Croix Sauna explained the sauna is on a mobile hydraulic trailer that lowers to the ground. If the council had approved the application, it would have been staffed by an attendant at all times and available for groups to rent for 75-minute sessions from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Zephyr’s Ice Maze Palace will return

The City Council unanimously approved the Zephyr Theatre’s application to close a portion of its parking lot and erect an Ice Maze Palace from Jan. 14 to Feb. 28 (weather permitting). The maze came crashing down early on Feb. 24 after unseasonably warm weather caused the ice walls to weaken.

As part of the application, the council also approved a temporary liquor license for the maze.

The application is similar to last year’s proposal. The ice palace maze was created last year in response to the Zephyr theatre not being allowed to host any indoor events because of COVID restrictions.

City councilor Dave Junker asked since indoor events have returned to the Zephyr will the maze conflict with any of those events.

Zephyr Theatre Executive Director Calyssa Hall said that they will not be running any indoor shows while they are running the maze. She did note, however, that the “It’s a Wonderful Life” production will conflict as they are building the palace so she will ask the staff to park at the theatre’s rehearsal space down the street from the theatre.

Ice Maze Palace will be made up of 2,000 blocks of ice and will contain a half mile of twisty passages, all ending with a 30-foot slide. Each day the maze will be open to the public from noon to 10 p.m. The setup for the event is proposed to start the day after Christmas and the clean-up is proposed to last around a week, wrapping up around March 3.

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