, ,

Man Begins Work On What Could Become Record-Breaking Ice Sculpture In Superior

City Has Invested $30K In Project As Part Of Plan To Bolster Winter Tourism


A Minnesota man is building a 7 million-pound ice sculpture in Superior this winter.

Software developer Roger Hanson has built sculptures at his home in Big Lake, Minnesota for the last seven years, but this will be the first time he has engineered one for the public. Hanson received $30,000 from the city and local chamber to support the sculpture’s construction.

To build the structure, Hanson engineered a spray tower that shoots 10 gallons of water a minute from Lake Superior onto cables suspended between poles. He expects to use one million gallons of water to build the sculpture in several tiers, like a layer cake. He said the end result will be a 70-foot-high and 90-foot-wide ice sculpture resembling a glacier — if his luck and the weather hold.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“It actually acts like a glacier. This thing is constantly moving, cracking and shifting,” said Hanson.

Hanson knows this because he’s monitoring activity at the site with seismic sensors in the ground. As the sculpture melts, he hopes to predict when it will come crashing down.

“How I can be this insane? It’s only not until about February when this thing is pretty formidable and people see it and get the wow effect. The appreciation of the public — that makes it worthwhile,” said Hanson.

Hanson said he’s had to adjust to the weather by the lake. Temperatures in Big Lake, he said, are more moderate and he doesn’t have to contend with the wind. He’s also struggling with the sandier soil on Barker’s Island, which caused his poles to sink into the ground.

“There’s a lot of things here that are so uniquely different that have caused me a lot of problems. Basically, we’ve got them all solved except for a few,” he said. “I’m not a quitter. I can’t quit. It’s not in the cards. There’s so many people depending on me. I can’t let them down.”

Hanson said he could make the Guinness Book of World Records for the tallest ice sculpture if he succeeds.

“I am number one. I’m the only one in the world that does anything like this,” he said.

The city of Superior is contracting with Hanson for three years. Mary Morgan, director of parks, recreation and forestry for the city, said this is a test year to see how things work. She said the sculpture is part of a plan to grow winter tourism and cash in on the success of the Lake Superior ice caves.

“A very beautiful manmade attraction is reminiscent of the natural attraction on the south shore,” said Morgan. “Kind of a lucky bonus, as is the timing.”

She said they’ve been drawing lessons from the Lake Superior ice caves in regards to parking, traffic and other needs if the sculpture draws in a lot of people.

“We’re certainly looking at it carefully. I know that (ice caves) came with a big bill,” said Morgan. “We’ve been in discussions with our Police Department. We have an open contract with a portable toilet vendor.”

Morgan said the city council took a bit of a risk approving funds for the ice sculpture project.

“But, it’s a calculated risk given the success he’s had in his own backyard,” she said.

Around 27,000 vehicles travel U.S. Highway 2 and Highway 53 each day, according to Morgan. She hopes that some passing through will make a pit stop at the roadside attraction.

Hanson said the ice sculpture should be done by mid-February.