TOWN OF GENEVA — Government and business leaders in the town of Geneva are cheering the arrival of the ice castle as a new winter attraction bringing crowds and dollars.
“I think it is a good thing,” Town Chairman Joe Kopecky said.
Officials at Ice Castles LLC announced Oct. 10 that the interactive frozen funhouse that drew thousands of visitors to Lake Geneva last winter is moving to the Geneva National Resort in the town of Geneva.
The attraction could be constructed and start entertaining visitors by January.
Located on Lake Como about four miles west of Lake Geneva, Geneva National is part of a golf course community that shares management with the Ridge Resort and the Hunt Club restaurant. It also is surrounded by other hotels, restaurants and shops.
Geneva National spokeswoman Leslie Johnson said other businesses can expect a boost from ice castle crowds. Once the attraction’s exact hours of operation are determined, Johnson said, organizers will release that information to surrounding merchants.
“It will bring more business to this side of Lake Geneva,” she said. “I know that there are other businesses on this side of the lake that are interested in just making sure that with the ice castle, that their businesses are prepared.”
In Lake Geneva last winter, restaurants and merchants reported sharp increases in business as the ice castle brought crowds to the city at a time when tourism typically would slow down for the winter months.
Ice Castles officials later said about 90,000 people had visited the Lake Geneva attraction during its six-week run on Riviera Beach in downtown Lake Geneva.
Despite the success, organizers later expressed dissatisfaction with the beach site, and they searched for an alternative location for the 2019 winter season.
After a deal fell through to move the attraction near city-owned Dunn Field park near downtown, the ice castle landed at Geneva National.
Officials at the Utah-based company Ice Castles LLC hope to begin work by November on the castle’s new and bigger home.
“We’re excited about it,” company CEO Ryan Davis said. “We think it is a good fit for everybody.”
The ice castle is an outdoor frozen funhouse that allows children and adults to enjoy interactive slides, tunnels, fountains and more in a photo-friendly winter setting. The attraction was about 20,000 square feet in size last year at Riviera Beach, and officials say the new version at Geneva National could be three times bigger.
In Lake Geneva last winter, the ice castle was open six days a week, sometimes hosting visitors as late as 10 p.m.
Geneva town trustee Kathy Scanlan said she envisions ice castle visitors spending time and money at such Lake Como-area attraction as Mars Resort, the French Country Inn and the Belfry Music Theatre.
“It will help the businesses with the influx of people,” Scanlan said. “It is a bonus for the businesses around there.”
Scanlan said the ice castle will also turn a spotlight on the Geneva National property.
“It will help them boost their sales,” she said. “It will help show off their complex.”
Kopecky agreed that neighboring businesses like the Ridge Resort and the French Country Inn stand to benefit, as well as restaurants in the Williams Bay and Lake Geneva areas.
Those staying overnight could find accommodations in the Lake Como area and other attractions to patronize, the town chairman said.
Kopecky said he has heard support for the ice castle attraction from Geneva National management as well as homeowner representatives in the gated residential neighborhood.
“It is a growing community,” he said of Geneva National, “so it will attract people to see the community over there.”
Geneva National officials have discussed setting up a shuttle service from the neighboring Ridge Resort and taking other steps to control traffic for the ice castle.
Johnson said Geneva National is usually a seasonal summer business primarily, so officials look forward to employing people year-round. Historically, Geneva National has not had to have additional staff during the winter months.
“We want to bring in additional staff with the hopes of keeping them year-round as we transition from the ice castle season to the golf season,” Johnson said. “Those individuals would be able to help out to maintain full-time employment with us.”