Ice Castles LLC recently pulled its application to build a year-round tourist destination at Dunn Field in Lake Geneva after school officials voiced concerns.
This is a negative for the region’s tourism economy and the merchants who wanted to see the visitors to the ice castles patronize their stores and restaurants.
As Ice Castles searches for a new location, community leaders should be working overtime to find a way to keep the interactive winter funhouse near downtown Lake Geneva.
The attraction had a positive impact on the local economy in Lake Geneva, and it wasn’t just Ice Castles that benefited from the additional visitors.
The year-over-year room tax revenues in the city jumped 14 percent in January and February. Local hotel managers have no doubts why this increase occurred. When they’ve spoken to reporters, they attributed it directly to the Ice Castles.
Those overnight visitors also dined at local restaurants, and many likely bought clothes, candy and trinkets from our downtown stores.
The time between Christmas and Winterfest is historically slow for Lake Geneva’s merchants and hotels. With the exception of Winterfest, the city has never enjoyed a robust winter tourism season. The area resorts may see traffic from skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, but that traffic has never been enough to sustain Lake Geneva’s downtown.
The ball was dropped by a number of parties. The city, the tourism commission and Ice Castles should have formerly reached out to the school district to discuss the proposal, which includes the use of a school-owned road and parking lot. School officials should have contacted city officials when they heard about the proposal and raised their concerns.
However, now is the time for Lake Geneva officials to take a leadership role on the Ice Castles. The private company, the school and the city need to get together and try to ensure that the ice castles enjoy another robust season in Lake Geneva.
If this doesn’t happen, Ice Castles may find a new location, and that will not help Lake Geneva or southeastern Wisconsin.