Dillon Ice Castles a big hit for local businesses, drawing thousands of weekend visitors
January 22, 2018
More than 30 feet tall, glittering by day and glowing shades of purple by night, the Dillon Ice Castles are a sight to behold, and plenty of people have made the trip to Town Park to catch a glimpse.
Ice Castles, the company that builds a half-dozen of the enormous ice structures in North America each winter, estimates that as many as 6,000 people have visited the Dillon castle each weekend since it opened in late December.
Business owners have taken notice, with some saying the attraction has doubled their January sales. Getting a table at the Arapahoe Café or Pug Ryan's, always popular destinations during the high season, is harder than ever.
"The Ice Castles — what a hit," said Danny Eilts, who owns the Conoco gas station at the entrance to town. "I don't think I've seen this many people in Dillon in the wintertime for 30 years… it's huge. I can't believe it."
Town officials are expecting a significant boost in tax revenues for January, an indirect return on the roughly $30,000 investment the town made contracting with Ice Castles.
"What we've heard from the community is that it has done wonders for our business community and we're hearing some real positives there," acting town manager Carri McDonnell told the Dillon Town Council last week. "And that also means we take in added revenue from taxes. So probably in the long run we'll actually make money in an indirect way."
Almost all of the expense comes from providing the enormous quantities of water for the project, which is considered a non-consumptive use. During construction, workers used a network of water pipes with sprinkler heads and thousands of icicles a day to build the structure.
Ice Castles reimbursed the town for roughly $20,000 in infrastructure costs for the project, which used about 300,000 gallons of water a day during construction but has since tapered to around 10,000 a day. Dillon also gets a 5 percent cut of the revenues up to $30,000, town staff said.
The company has come to Summit County in the past, but this is the first year it has built an ice castle in Dillon, complete with crawl tunnels, a throne and ice slides. The attraction has gotten media buzz as far away as Chicago.
"We've received hundreds of thousands of dollars in media value," town spokeswoman Kerstin Anderson said. "So the buzz and awareness of Dillon is a big positive aspect of the partnership, too."
Depending on the weather, the ice castle is expected to stay open through March, but its early success has town officials already thinking about next season. Whether or not the attraction returns could depend on how it ultimately impacts Town Park, which is due for renovations in 2019.
"This is the first time we've done this," public works director Scott O'Brien said. "We just need to see what it looks like. That's a lot of water to move off of that field, and is the field going to be a muddy mess? How soon would other activities be able to resume on the grass? So until we see what happens I don't want to say yay or nay yet."
Future work on the park will include a new grass field, and the impact the castle has on the current grass will likely determine whether or not a new castle would be put somewhere else — possibly at the marina parking lot.
"We need to look at what happens to the park and the grass," Anderson said, explaining that Ice Castles has changed its process over the years to lessen its impact on grass. "We just want to see how that looks, because if we invest a million dollars in our park, we want to make sure it stays nice."
The town plans to take a detailed look at the project's impact on tax revenues when those numbers become available. It will also conduct a survey to gauge the public's perception.
Online, the response has been positive, with Town Park's Google reviews inundated with new entries about the castle.
"Saw the ice castles and they were awesome!" one reviewer wrote. "The fire dancers put on a amazing show as well… Totally epic experience… tell your friends."
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