MASON CITY, Iowa - Driving through Downtown Mason City, you may notice one of the biggest pieces of the River City Renaissance project going up: the multi-purpose arena. It only broke ground in February, but progress is coming along.
The roof has been topped off, with the walls and inside also being worked on. Now, the City is aiming for the ice surface to be ready for play by late November-early December.
And while the project has had its fits, hiccups and controversy, construction and planning on one of the project's centerpieces is becoming a reality.
Ron Hanna is an avid hockey fan, and started the Mason City Youth Hockey club when he came to town in the early 1970s, and also led the charge on constructing the arena at the North Iowa Events Center.
"From '73 to '83, it was all outdoors. And then in '83, we got the rink out there at the fairgrounds."
Now that construction on the club's new home is in motion, Hanna and his wife say they're ready to see it come alive.
"We were here for the groundbreaking, and we stop by once a week to check on what the progress is, just eyeball it. I've been meaning to get in there and take a look, but haven't had a chance yet."
City Administrator Aaron Burnett was instrumental in getting the project to where it is now.
"Ice sports really needed us to move quicker. We needed to get the arena in place because we knew they were struggling with an antiquated system that was getting almost impossible to repair and costing them an exorbitant amount of money to start up every year."
Events are already booked for the new venue, with the club and the North Iowa Bulls planning to move in upon completion. Burnett says city council, as well as the contractors working on the project, is making it all possible.
"I think the community's going to enjoy getting into the space and seeing what's been constructed with the tax dollars they've dedicated for the project."
The Bulls, which are sub-leasing the arena from the City and Mason City Youth Hockey, are set to move in this winter as well. In the event if there are delays, CEO and Director of Administration Kathee Corsello says splitting between the North Iowa Recreational Arena and the new arena is an option. To say goodbye to 'the Barn', Hanna says an alumni game is being scheduled to mark the transition in November.
For the other projects, the groundbreaking on the new apartments and townhouses across Willow Creek from the arena is scheduled for 10 a.m. next Wednesday, and a public hearing for the hotel and convention center is set for July 23rd.
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