In past winters, the Mall of America focused on keeping ice off its parking lots. This year, it's going the other direction and adding ice. Lots and lots of ice, enough to cover an acre and rise as high as 40 feet.

The Bloomington shopping mecca has contracted with a Colorado company to build a giant ice castle. If the weather cooperates, organizers hope to have it open to the public by the end of December. Plans call for it to remain through February.

The castle, which will be illuminated by colored lights, will be made from icicles rather than blocks of ice. The workers "grow" icicles, then "weld" them together using water.

"That will give it a completely different feeling as you walk through it," said mall spokeswoman Bridget Jewell. It will seem more like an immense natural cavern than a palace, she said.

The work can begin as soon as overnight temperatures drop consistently below 25 degrees. Ice Castles LLC, the company creating it, said it will be the largest castle it has built. The ice specialist estimates that it will take 4 million gallons of water and 2,500 hours of round-the-clock labor.

Admission will be $10 for adults and $5 for ages 3-12. The castle will be part of a larger winter playground that will include a snow area for kids (free) and a skating rink ($3) built with synthetic ice.

Asked if the mall is worried about trying to lure people outside in the dead of winter, Jewell shrugged it off.

"Hey, we're Minnesotans," she said. "We're hardy."