Ice Castles Public Meeting Set for Wednesday

Final Decision on Attraction Still on Hold

Rick Langenberg

Despite weeks of anticipation, a final decision on a possible return of Ice Castles to Cripple Creek next winter won’t probably be officially announced until early June.

But this Wednesday, a community meeting will occur at the Butte Theater to receive input from local residents and others regarding the pros and cons of the attraction, which reportedly turned into a big winner for local business operators. Activity in Cripple Creek during this period was unusually high, rivaling traffic during major festivals in the summer.

At the same time, the Disneyland-like iconic attraction, only available in a handful of communities across the country, definitely posed many challenges for law enforcement and public works officials.  A slight uptick in accidents on Hwy. 67 occurred, but it is still unsure whether this rise in accidents was a byproduct of the rough winter in the Pikes Peak region, or due to the Ice Castles-related traffic volume.

Last week, Cripple Creek City Administrator Frank Salvato stated that a final decision is not in the cards until at least another month.

Rumors have already circulated in increasing volume that a multi-year deal is in the works.  But officials are still mum about a ‘yea’ or ‘no’ decision for a return run for the winter 2024/2025 season.

Salvato, though, said the Utah company will conduct an internal meeting to determine whether it plans to return to Cripple Creek. “We hope they come back,” said the city administrator, who believes the attraction worked well for the community.  Early indications also signal that company officials were happy with the traffic generated during their debut season in Cripple Creek, but no future deals have been announced.

Salvato said the clean-up operations are still ongoing.

As for this week’s community meeting, scheduled on April 24, Salvato stated that officials want to hear input from the citizens. This forum could offer more details as to the status of the Ice Castles negotiations with the city. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Butte’s main theater area.

More Gaming Choices in Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek is finally slowly creeping out of its betting device deficit.

But the gaming community is still a long way from returning to its pre-COVID-19 era.

During last week’s council meeting, Finance Director Paul Harris reported an increase of more than 200 betting devices in the most recent recording period.  This increase is attributed to the opening of the Chamonix resort. .

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the town is still 549 devices down from its pre-COVID period.

COVID plagued the casino industry big-time, forcing a shutdown of gaming activity in Colorado for three-plus months. In addition, a slew of regulations made the local industry operate with fewer betting choices for patrons.

As a result, local casino operators were forced to do things with less, namely, to operate with fewer betting devices.  Unfortunately, this situation had serious consequences for the city, which relies on betting device fees for the majority of its operational revenue. When COVID struck, the city lost an estimated $2.2 million with the shutdown of the casino industry,

However, the gaming industry is on a roll locally, with impressive increases in adjusted gross proceeds and in overall betting volume.

These increases are attributed to the Ice Castles attraction, the Ice Fest and the opening of the $300 million Chamonix project.

Infrastructure, infrastructure and infrastructure

The Cripple Creek City Council heard more of its woes last week regarding needed road improvements and wastewater enhancements.

The big missing puzzle in the city’s current growth spurt deals with the lack of necessary infrastructure, encompassing roads and water and sewer lines.

At last week’s meeting, the council allocated $400,000 for local road work this year to Pyramid Construction. But this amount was cited as a drop in the bucket for the city’s total road improvement bill that will nearly hit the $30 million level.

A recent study indicated that the total bill for repairing all local streets would cost approximately $26 million. “We have to stop the bleeding,” said the city administrator, in outlining a plan to address some of the main problem areas.

Long-range plans have not been proposed yet for ways to address the city’s declining road situation.

Wastewater plant enhancements could also become another big area of concern.

As the town continues to grow, courtesy of signature lodging, casino expansions and housing projects, more pressure will build to address its aging infrastructure.