Mason City Iowa is known as the original ‘River City’ and was the inspiration for the town in composer Meredith Willson’s Broadway hit musical The Music Man. Mason City began experiencing “Trouble… With a Capital ‘T’” when an economic downturn forced several closures in downtown. To address this ‘trouble,’ the community came together to establish a regional strategic plan, Vision North Iowa. This inclusive effort drew from the input of key partner organizations; a diverse steering committee representing the entire region; and stakeholders from multiple cities, chamber of commerce organizations, school districts, banks, local businesses, industry, and the county.
The plan provided a blueprint for Mason’s City’s revitalization and featured projects.
River City Renaissance Project – Mason City Arena
Southbridge Mall, located in downtown Mason City, had been a popular retail hub since opening but recently several retail stores closed, resulting in increased vacancies. At the same time, the North Iowa Ice Arena was deteriorating. The ice-skating facilities and equipment in the arena were in need of repair and substantial reinvestment was necessary.
As both the tenant occupancy in Southbridge Mall and the condition of the North Iowa Ice Arena continued to decline, city and community leaders came together and determined the best solution involved the construction of a multi-purpose arena at the west end of the mall that could serve as an anchor mall tenant and a new ice arena, amongst other things. The community believed that a new, larger, more visible and reliable multi-use arena would allow the users to expand program offerings and attract additional participants to various ice sports and other entertainment events.
The city spearheaded a local referendum and the chamber of commerce formed a committee that “rocked the vote,” helping pass the referendum with overwhelming support. Additional support came from the local hockey organization which pledged to raise 10% of the funds.
This project has allowed Mason City to take a space that was vacant and revitalize it, turning it into a mixture of retail and entertainment. Since ground-breaking, 13 new stores have opened in the mall, doubling the occupancy rate, and established businesses have reported an average increase of over 70% in sales. The arena will continue to transform the downtown into a regional destination for food, shopping and entertainment for residents and visitors alike.
Volunteers ‘Make Mason City Sparkle’
The Mason City Volunteer Program was designed to connect citizens with opportunities to enhance the community by donating their time and skills. The volunteer program educates volunteers of all ages on the benefits of volunteering and booths have been set up at various events to educate residents on volunteer opportunities.
Volunteer projects include:
In 2019 volunteers made Mason City Sparkle by donating 15,130 hours of service, equaling a value of over $350,000.
5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count
This messaging campaign tackles issues of diabetes and obesity, standing for: 5 or more fruits/vegetables; no more than 2 hours of screen time; 1 hour or more of physical activity; and 0 sugar drinks.
5-2-1-0 efforts include