Posted at: 11/14/2012 5:53 PM
Updated at: 11/14/2012 5:57 PM
By: Chris Long
The area around the Cathedral of St Paul was packed with nearly 100,000 fans at Red Bull Crashed Ice St Paul debut in 2012.
Organizers expect at least as many this year, announcing the extreme sport will make another stop in the capital city.
Crashed Ice isn't just a thrill for competitors and fans, but also for St Paul's economy.
"We think the economic impact last year was about 20 million dollars for the city of St Paul, so it's a very significant event," says Mayor Chris Coleman. "Combine that with how much fun it was for people and what a great signature event it is - it was one of those things we wanted to make sure it came back."
From road closures to additional police and support personnel, the event does come at a cost to the city.
"It's one of those things," Coleman says, "if you have an opportunity to bring 80-90 thousand people down to watch an event - it's hard to gather 90-thousand people outside in the middle of the winter - but for something like this you do it. And, it all works out, the economic impact more than offsets any cost we might have."
The event will run for three days and nights on a course running downhill toward downtown from the Cathedral grounds.
While the speed of the competitors and the track itself were a spectacle last season, Red Bull organizers are raising the bar - literally - for 2012.
"We're still running on the Cathedral grounds," says USA Crashed Ice coach Charlie Wasley, "but this year's start gate will be 48 feet high. That's 12 feet higher than last year."
Among the competitors at the event press conference was a former Gopher hockey player who skated in the Crashed Ice event in Quebec City last year.
Charlie Schack said he got chills hearing the new course's start gate would reach even further into the Saint Paul sky than last year's.
"Once they put it together and you actually see it - it's gonna look a little bigger," says Schack, a Lino Lakes native who skated for the Minnesota Gophers from 2006 to 2010. "There's nothing like this. You see snowboarders, hockey games, skiers, and it's just mixing everything together, there's just nothing like it. Going down this track and there's 100-thousand people watching, you'll never have that happen in a hockey game."
Crashed Ice is the latest in a series of events Red Bull's marketing team has delivered to Saint Paul. Prior events such as the Skyway Bike Tour and Flugtag - which saw homemade airplanes launch from a Harriet Island dock into the Mississippi River - have been a boon for the city.
Coleman says Crashed ice may be the crown jewel of them all.
"It's hard to gather 90-thousand people outside in the middle of the winter, but for something like this you do it," he says. "Red Bull and St Paul have been a nice combination. It's a great working partnership. So, we hope to continue this relationship."
Crashed Ice 2013 will begin Thursday, January 24th with American qualifiers. International qualifiers are the following night. The finals will skate in front of massive crowds on Saturday, January 26.