Lake Geneva shops expect to see spike in business during Ice Castles

Posted at 10:10 AM, Dec 11, 2019

Many Lake Geneva businesses are anxiously awaiting the return of the Ice Castles for a second year.

Last winter, they reported a significant spike in customers while the Ice Castles were open.

"Sixty one percent of Lake Geneva businesses reported an increase in sales," said Stephanie Klett, President/CEO of VISIT Lake Geneva. "The closer your business was to the Ice Castles, the bigger increase was."

She said some restaurants near Lake Geneva's beach, the site of last year's Ice Castles, reported up to a 75% increase in sales.

"Our visitors told us in a survey that 85% who came for the Ice Castles either came early to have lunch in the area or stayed late for dinner," Klett said.

Martin Guerrero, owner of Olympic Family Restaurant on Main Street, said he saw a significant increase in business during an ordinarily slow time of year.

Guerrero estimated his business makes about 50% less on a winter weekend than it does on a weekend during Lake Geneva's busy summer season.

When the Ice Castles were open last year, Guerrero estimated that business jumped from 50% to 80%.

"It was a good thing for all businesses in town," he said.

Klett said the estimated economic impact of the Ice Castles on Lake Geneva last winter was $3 million.

"It's everything. It's overnight stays at hotels, it's filling up at gas stations, it's visitors, while they were here, picking up some chocolate at the candy store," Klett said.

Klett is confident that positive economic impact of the castles will continue this year - even though they'll be located further from downtown.

The Ice Castle organizers announced earlier this year they would be moving to Geneva National because the increased space will allow them to make the castles bigger and attract more visitors.

"They said, because this was such a hit, we need to make this bigger," Klett said.

Geneva National is located roughly 6.5 miles away from the beach. Even so, Klett is confident Ice Castle visitors will still spend money in Downtown Lake Geneva.

She noted the majority of Ice Castles' visitors traveled at least 30 miles to see them last year. Because there are only five Ice Castle sites in the United States (plus one in Canada) Klett said they will draw tourists from around the country and even the world.

Some downtown businesses will stay open for longer hours when the Ice Castles are open.

Others, like Guerrero's, will offer special deals to draw in customers.

"We'll have homemade pizza, hot drinks and hot chocolate for the people and the kids walking around downtown on the sidewalks," he said.

Klett said Ice Castle organizers hope to be open from roughly late December through March. But, she noted the castles are weather-dependent. You can get the latest updates on the Ice Castles website here.