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Gym owners in Mason City say working with City Hall frustrating

Jake and John
Jake and John

MASON CITY – There’s a saying, “You can’t fight City Hall.” Apparently, you might not even be able to work with them in Mason City. Jake Prazak and John Berding (pictured, right) recently opened N.I.P. and Fitness in Mason City the old fashioned way: they just went out and did the job and asked for nothing. Along the way and after, they say working with City Hall in Mason City has been frustrating and confusing.

“We had heard war stories about getting permits… the stories were right,” said Jake Prazak, co-owner of the new fitness center located at 2324 South Federal Avenue.

Prazak and co-owner John Berding pursued their dream of starting a new gym and fitness center in Mason City and thought City Hall would “guide (us) through the process.” They say the opposite occurred. “We could not get straight answers from anybody.”

Prazak said that they chose their location carefully and did not ask for any help from anyone but themselves and a few friends. “We decided if we could find the right location we would open a gym,” he said.

“We finally decided the old Coastal Mart gas station lot would meet all of our needs,” Prazak said. “We checked with the city and they said what we wanted to do would be fine. They said it would be great for someone to come in and fix the ‘eye sore’ on South Federal.”

Prazak said their experience in City Hall went like this:

“John and I are not big business entrepreneurs. We are hard working Iowa boys that know it takes hard work to succeed. We expected to be guided through the process with open arms. That was not the case. We could not get straight answers from anybody. Our biggest problem was getting an answer on where we could put the building on the lot and what the offsets should be. We received different answers on different floors multiple times. Our thinking was we were going to number one fix an eye sore, secondly make Mason City money, and thirdly make North Iowa stronger and more fit. We expected some guidance for what we were going to give back to Mason City, but we received none.”

Prazak and Berding did not ask for any financial help or incentives from the City in starting their dream. “We did not ask for anything to start. We dove head first and built it.”

Prazak said that once they navigated all the City’s requirements, they simply went to work, built the building as the City stipulated, and opened for business.

But, they said the City was not through with them.

“Next they told us we had to asphalt our parking lot. Then they said we are required to build a fence around the parking lot. I just got another email about it today as a matter of fact.”

All that is fine, they say.

“We just completed the parking lot. New asphalt and yellow paint for the parking spaces. The fence will cost a lot of money.”

Now, all Prazak and Berding want is the same type of help other business owners in Mason City are receiving.

They say they have been reading the news and hearing the stories around town about all the dollars being thrown in the direction of a select few business owners and are wondering if there is help available for them and how to tap into those resources.

“We are requesting a meeting with the city council to discuss any assistance that would be available to us as a new business. We want to beautify this end of town. We have a good start and would like to continue,” Prazak said.

Prazak and Berding would like to “discuss a sign as well as a light for our parking lot; a possible forgivable loan; and a possible tax abatement.”

There is still plenty to pay for and accomplish on their corner lot despite all the hard work they have completed, the two business owners said.

Jake, who recently broke a world record in the bench press, putting up 920.4 pounds, said “We’d like new sidewalks. We’d like to construct the fence the City is requiring and add lights. We have lots of expensive fitness equipment to buy and pay for. Utilities. We’d like the help others have now received.”

Prazak and Berding say their plan is to set meetings with their City Council representatives, Mayor Eric Bookmeyer, City Administrator Brent Trout and possibly North Iowa Corridor Director Brent Willett.

As they meet with these City officials, the pair promised to keep informed on their progress as they pursue help for their new business.

The 5,100-square-foot N.I.P and Fitness Center caters to all persons looking to get fit, including all fitness levels, men and women alike.

Co-owner Jake Prazak speaks:

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