MASON CITY, Iowa - It was a day of big announcements.
“I’m happy to report that the state of the city is good and filled with promise,” said Mayor Bill Schickel during his annual State of the City Address Wednesday.
In the address Mayor Schickel discussed taking the city’s dilapidated buildings more seriously as well as a Riverwalk along Willow Creek to rival that of the one in San Antonio but the big headliner is the announcement that construction of the new multi-purpose arena will begin no later than February.
“We’ve finally lifted the River City Renaissance Project out of the ditch and on to the road of success,” Mayor Schickel said.
The project, though, still has its critics.
“How are you going to pay for this thing and get back the $10M from the state?” said Mason City resident Max Weaver.
The project stalled for four years and many in city administration believe it’s time to get moving.
“Inaction would also produce a very negative outcome,” said City Administrator Aaron Burnett. “It will lead the city to not be able to execute the reinvestment district grant, the $9.2 from the state, it’ll lead to continued dilapidation of the mall and out-migration of the folks that are still doing business in the mall.”
State funding for the project is dependent on the Gatehouse Capital hotel agreement that remains in limbo. If that deal doesn’t move forward the city would be roughly $4M short of the money needed for the arena.
“The shortfall would then have to be made up with some other revenue sources and there’s also tax increment financing and other revenues dedicated to other portions of the project,” said Burnett.
And while Burnett is concerned about the possibility, he still thinks it is time to build the long discussed arena.
“At some point we need to take a step forward with the project,” said Burnett. “Inactivity has led to a lot of doubt and a lot of difficulties.”