COMMUNITY VOICES | Red Bull Crashed Ice—not for everyone

It’s likely that any number of St. Paul residents, well, people from all over the world, are looking forward to the Red Bull Ice Cross Downhill World Championship this weekend. Crashed Ice attracts more than 100,000 people to the Cathedral Hill neighborhood in St. Paul for an evening of bright lights, loud music and competitive skating.  Weeks are spent constructing the track, which banks off the St. Paul Cathedral, swoops over Summit Avenue on an elevated bridge, rushes downhill, around curves, past the Archdiocese and ending at the foot of the steep hill just outside downtown St. Paul. This event is a spectacle in the biggest way possible. It connects us with similar races in Helsinki, Moscow and Quebec City. This is big stuff for St. Paul!

Many people are exhilarated by the event, thousands apparently. Yet, not everyone is elated at the thrill of the race. I’m not, and neither are the other owners in my small condominium that sits right next to the start of the ice track. Yes, the front door to my home is less than a block from the starting point of this huge, renowned, international event.

Let me explain what it’s like living next door to a spectacle for a month. Red Bull starts setting up the scaffolding and track almost a month before the actual event. Loud generators run 24 hours a day, rumbling and humming in an irritating and never-ending background noise. The generators are accompanied by highly luminescent spotlights that stay on all night. Then, there are the trucks and construction equipment. We’re woken up by early morning engines and the annoying beeping noises they make in reverse. That, and the odor of truck and generator exhaust wafting through our windows.

As the event approaches, we start having to drive around streets barricades, and since Marshall is a one way, maneuvering our way home is even more difficult and stressful. Last year, an ignorant and angry pedestrian actually chased me down the street as I drove the wrong direction screaming,” You’re going the wrong way! You’re not above the law!” No, I’m not above the law; I’m just trying to get home. I have a dog to walk! Strangers disregard our signs and park in our lot. They pick fights when we ask them to leave. One guy threatened to sue us. One day, my neighbor came home to find Red Bull filming in our lot. It’s invasive.

The evenings of the actual races cap off the experience. Our neighborhood is flooded with thousands and thousands of people, noise and commotion. Helicopters rotors beat noisily overhead. The event interferes with our Internet and cell phone service. Last year, the music and MC were so loud our windows rattled all evening. I said to people, “It’s like a night club in your living room!” Except with your seven year old…while trying to watch a Disney movie and get ready for bed.

Last night was the worst. Our plowing company pulled a no-show during the day, and we had FINALLY found someone to come and dig out our parking lot that evening. The truck arrived; we could see him a block away. We waved at him. Then, we listened dejectedly as security told us it couldn’t be allowed through. They couldn’t move the bike racks that line our street to let him in. Some guy, somewhere else, was making the rules about our property. They couldn’t just give us that one thing. A major thing, on a day when we’d had two feet of snow and ice dumped on us. It had taken the truck over an hour to get to us. Parking hadn’t been allowed on our street for a month and we had nowhere to put our cars without having to walk blocks. Now our lot was unavailable as well.

We’re bitter, angry even. The St. Paul Cathedral is being compensated extremely well for its participation in the event, not to mention the publicity it’s getting. St. Paul College provided access for construction workers to their facilities during the month-long process and is also benefiting. I guess our little condo association is just too small, too inconsequential. We don’t have a team of legal representatives. We don’t have a voice. The other three buildings on our block are rental buildings. The owners aren’t residing on the properties and aren’t affected by the bedlam. Their renters just have to live with it.  We’re the exception, the building that has to be placated.

The City holds inconveniently timed “community meetings” to respond to citizen concerns. They’ll discuss anything with us. They also provided us with a handy flyer outlining what we can expect. We got this message in response to our latest e-mail from the City’s Marketing Department:

"I’d be happy to discuss with you or anyone else in the building, any concerns they may have.  Please feel free to contact me to set something up or you can come to our follow up meeting which will be held at St. Paul College early next month.  I know the attached flyer was dropped off at your property but in case it was misplaced, details are there.”

Now, if I had moved into a home near Snelling and Como Avenues, I would have expected crazy large crowds from the Minnesota State Fair next door. If I bought a house next to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I’d certainly expect loud noise and disruption. But I didn’t make the choice to live next to a major attraction; the City of St. Paul made it for me. 

Though happy to talk to us, listen to our concerns, and respond to our e-mails, City employees mostly just try to “manage” us. Granted, last year they started providing us with rent-a-guard folks during the event to warn people away from our lot.  (Believe it or not, people actually think our property is public space.) Our frustration and anger stem from the fact that there hasn’t been genuine acknowledgement of the major inconvenience, the disruption and intrusiveness of Crashed Ice on our lives. We have never been offered compensation for accommodating the chaos. We have no recourse.

Our small association would have appreciated something, any gesture of good will; recognition of the hassle we’ve had to live with, an apology, a thank you letter or e-mail, anything. But that hasn’t been the case. This is to be expected of a government that has the best interests of its own agenda in mind.  We’ve heard this will be the last year Crashed Ice takes place next door and hope that’s the case. It’s making an already brutal winter even more insufferable.


Related article:

Red Bull Crashed Ice returns to St. Paul February 22 (Barb Teed, TC Daily Planet)

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  • I am sorry this amazing event bothers you so much. I can see how it can get a little chaotic at times but as a die hard spectator of this sport I hope you don't do anything to keep them from coming back. If your Condo is where I think it is, why don't you rent it out for the evening to a responsible group. I am sure you could get a lot of money for it. Just a thought for you. Red Bull Crashed is the coolest event in Minnesota. - by Brandon Foley on Sun, 02/23/2014 - 6:36pm
  • I certainly feel for all the people inconvenienced by this event. I live far enough away so I can general avoid dealing with the issues you have raised, Betsy. If the Cathedral is "well compensated" I think you should be compensated for the disruption of the lives of those in the neighborhood. Very well stated, Betsy. Good luck. - by Shirley Johnson on Sun, 02/23/2014 - 10:20pm
  • Thank you for writing this, Betsy. I am dumbfounded and appalled that this happened. Again. In the face of the city promising last year that they'd heard our concerns and would address them. This really does make a person feel powerless and voiceless. - by Emily Sue on Sun, 02/23/2014 - 3:08pm
  • Way to go, Betsy! Excellent letter explaining "the event from hell" for the owners/residents of your building. - by Janis L. Manger on Sun, 02/23/2014 - 11:54am

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bmowry's picture
Betsy Mowry