Ice Alaska Aims for ‘Disneyland of the North’

The World Ice Carving Exhibitor’s Association is poised close on purchase of a new venue for the annual ice art championships and kids park in Fairbanks. The nonprofit group better known as “Ice Alaska” is buying 25 acres off the Johansen Expressway for $2.3 million. The property is near where the group has leased Alaska railroad land for 22 years. The organization unsuccessfully tried to work a deal to buy the Railroad acreage, and Ice Alaska President Dick Brickley says ownership is the biggest advantage of the new site.

Ice Alaska is putting together the land deal with $800,000 from an organization board member, and $1.5 million in state grant money. The state awarded Ice Alaska the grant for a new building, but the money was later turned over to the Fairbanks Borough due to the land issue. The Borough assembly gave Ice Alaska until the end of June to finalize a property deal or see the money awarded through a competitive Request for Proposal process. Other local organizations have expressed interest in the money and taking over the event, but Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins told the assembly at its Thursday meeting, the grant will go to Ice Alaska.

Work has already begun to dismantle and move Ice Alaska’s headquarters and other infrastructure to the new venue.  The new site has a bigger pond for ice harvesting, and a mix of shaded and open areas for ice sculptures. Brickley says the annual February, March event will continue, and grow, at the new site.

Brickley has long promoted a “Disneyland of the north” concept for Ice Alaska, in which winter and summer tourist activities are incorporated into the ice carving venue. He says it will take a few years to figure out how best to grow the event at the new site, but that Ice Alaska organizers are happy to finally have a permanent venue to work with.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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