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ST. PAUL–Here’s a new one: A major construction project in downtown St. Paul may be held up due to the lack of cold weather.

At least a foot of ice is needed before volunteer workers can harvest the ice to build the 75-foot-high palace in downtown St. Paul, the centerpiece of this year’s St. Paul Winter Carnival. Plans call for an elaborately lit palace consisting of five towers, the largest six stories high.

The palace is being built on on Cleveland Circle across West Seventh Street from the Xcel Energy Center, where the 2004 National Hockey League All-Star game will be played. ABC television is broadcasting the game, and it plans to feature the palace in its coverage.

There is a little more than six inches of ice on the lake, and the recent warm up–the highs before Christmas have been above freezing–haven’t helped.

The organizers hope to harvest 27,000 blocks weighing about 500 pounds from Lake Phalen in St. Paul to build the palace and a 10-foot wall surrounding the site. For the lighting of the Ice Palace to stand out, builders want ice that’s crystal clear. A backup plan is to import ice from northern Minnesota.

Lack of cold weather isn’t the only challenge facing the builders. Fundraisers not quite through raising $1.1 million for insurance, security and incidental items. Including the estimated value of donated time, money and materials, the 2004 Ice Palace will cost nearly $8.4 million.

Minneapolis-based Kraus-Anderson Construction Co. is providing management, organization and construction scheduling for the Ice Palace. Three months ago, Kraus-Anderson built three miles of underground conduit, poured concrete and placed transformers on the site. Workers plan to continue putting up more scaffolding and electrical wiring while waiting for Lake Phalen to freeze.

The architect for the Ice Palace is Leo A. Daly architecture firm, while Frattalone and Associates handled the lighting design and layout.

Construction crews are already erecting scaffolding and make other site preparations. The crew is lead by volunteer AFL-CIO construction trade workers.

In 1992, the last time the city built a castle from ice, king-sized cost overruns nearly dragged the Winter Carnival into bankruptcy. Although it drew 2.5 million visitors, there was no admission fee. But the castle caused damage to the street and large overtime security bills from the St. Paul Police Department. In the end, the nonprofit Winter Carnival foundation had no money to pay about $600,000 in bills that kept on coming.

Unlike 1992, visitors will be asked to buy a $5 Winter Carnival button to get tickets for admission.

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