Dillon parks committee wants ice castles out of Town Park because of concerns about damage
Group says damage to park won't play once improvement projects are completed
DILLON — It’s no secret that the Dillon ice castles have been a major hit for the town over the past two winters.
Thousands of visitors flock to Dillon to take in the frozen and sparkling attraction, the only Colorado town that Ice Castles LLC calls home. Businesses in the town core enjoy the extra visitors purchasing hotel rooms and making their way to restaurants and bars. And the town itself has seen considerable growth in sales tax revenue and media exposure over the winter months.
But for some, the amenity comes with too high of a cost. The Dillon Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee has voiced serious concerns about the ice castles being built on top of Town Park and think it might be time to relocate the attraction.
The issue initially came up last year when committee members spoke out about damage to Town Park following Ice Castles’ first year in Dillon. The topic returned to conversation earlier this month after committee member Lucinda Burns addressed the problem in front of the Dillon Town Council.
“We got a tour of the Town Park after the contract ended with Ice Castles, and we were really discouraged to look at the condition of it,” Burns said. “We are also discouraged with the amount of time the ice castles have taken up — weeks and months that the ice castles use up the park and make it unavailable to the general public. We’re really excited about the master plan for the Town Park, so we are also unanimously concerned about potential damage after the work starts going in on the park.”
Barb Richard, the committee’s secretary, said that on top of numerous brown spots at the park where the grass hasn’t yet recovered from the castles, the weight of all the ice has created lumps in the ground that make it more difficult to use for parkgoers.
“Of course the weight of the ice castles is pretty tough on the turf,” Richard said. “If you go look at it right now, there are spots where the walls were, where there was a ton of weight, and it harms the turf field and makes it wobbly and harder to run on if you want to go out and play on it.”
Richard said the committee felt Ice Castles did a considerably better job with park upkeep this year than last, but with major park improvements scheduled through next year, its members feel future iterations may be counterintuitive to the long-term plans of the park.
The town began work on phase one of the Town Park Master Plan this week — a $1.2 million project that largely includes infrastructure improvements to roadways and parking surrounding the park along with the relocation of some of the tennis courts. While this winter isn’t the biggest concern, more substantial improvements are coming to the park next year. The town has more than $1 million budgeted for a new multiuse field and playground, and committee members aren’t keen on the idea of building over the new investments.
“The ice castles are obviously a money maker for the town and bring people in during the wintertime” committee vice chair Eric Nicholds said. “My biggest issue is the impact on the park. We’re planning on a big overhaul on the park that’s been in the works for a while. Next year, public works and us are planning on having the whole park redone. Once that’s done, I don’t think we’ll want the ice castles there.”
Richard said the committee doesn’t necessarily want Ice Castles out of town and already has begun looking at potential alternate locations. She said the committee also is hoping to pitch other ways to activate the Town Park during winter, including light displays among other ideas.
If the town does decide to move away from Ice Castles in the future, finding alternatives to drive visitors to the town core likely would remain a priority. The castles have been a boon to businesses around the area, with sales tax numbers jumping almost 29% in January compared with the same month in 2016 and more than 21% in December compared with December 2017, the year before the first ice castles made their way to town.
Ultimately, the decision will fall to the Dillon Town Council. Dillon’s director of marketing and communications Kerstin Anderson said Ice Castles representatives will be in town early next month to make their proposal to return for next winter.
“Once we build (the park), we want people to come,” Richard said. “Once we build what the community envisioned, it’d be a heck of a risk to harm that. … We really want to see the beautiful improvements.”