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Waterloo goes ahead with “Sportsplex” as Mason City struggles for answers

This news story was published on April 17, 2012.
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by Matt Marquardt –

Mason City is not the only community in the region looking at building a city-run recreation center.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier is reporting that the Waterloo City Council OK’d plans Monday to go ahead with building a “Cedar Valley Sportsplex.”

While not exactly the same as Mason City’s “multi-purpose arena,” which would include up to two sheets of ice for hockey and ice skating as well as provide a venue for concerts, pro-wrestling and other possibilities, Waterloo’s project would cost about the same ($20 million) and both cities would be in the business of running the day-to-day operations.

Mason City leaders now call the multi-purpose arena project a “Sports and Entertainment Center” and are considering paying for a feasibility study on the project.

According to a website dedicated to the Waterloo project, “The Cedar Valley Sportsplex will provide fitness opportunities for all children and adults in a central  location for the citizens of Waterloo and the Cedar Valley. Located near the Young Arena and the Waterloo Center for the Arts, the complex creates an activity zone within the downtown area.  The project is sited on two city blocks and will feature a large turf field house for soccer and baseball.  Other program spaces include a two court gymnasium space, locker facilities, multi-purpose meeting space, child care, kid’s gym and offices for Waterloo Leisure Services Divison on the main level. Upper level spaces include members lockers, fitness studious, golf practice, weights and cardio workout area and a four lane running track. A leisure pool will be completed in Phase 2.”   (See artist rendering from same source, above.)

The site says groundbreaking will begin April 19th in Waterloo.

The project will use TIF (tax increment financing) and GO bonds to finance the construction, (even as the Iowa Legislature works on TIF reform) similar to tools Mason City would use to fund its project.

The Courier reported that Waterloo Mayor Buck Clark said he was “quite confident” the SportsPlex will operate in the black… a similar concern Mason City leaders are grappling with at this time.

They hope a feasibility study, said to cost between $7,500 and $10,000, would answer that question.

Proposed location for possible multi-purpose arena in Mason City:




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43 Responses to Waterloo goes ahead with “Sportsplex” as Mason City struggles for answers

  1. Matt Reply Report comment

    May 24, 2012 at 10:27 am

    There are no decent jobs in Mason City outside of the hospital and such. The rest are low paying jobs for retail or light manufacturing.

    I do agree, there is a serious lack of entertainment options, but some people do not care about that. They’re the same ones too cheap or poor to buy homes further away from the noisy streets of 65 etc..yet will bitch and moan about it.

    • Peter, peter, peter Reply Report comment

      May 24, 2012 at 11:21 am

      “They’re the same ones too cheap or poor to buy homes further away from the noisy streets of 65 etc..yet will bitch and moan about it.” Hmm, i agree but be careful with that one…what we really should do is shut all traffic down on 65 until we can get vehicles to have quieter mufflers and that new rubber for tires like the commercial i saw with the totally silent basketball. Ya, THAT’S THE TICKET!!! Block off the street/highway for those that choose to live close to it to have total silence to be able to listen to the birds sleep and stuff. Crap, i’m so ignorant…if i don’t like corn, i should move right next to a corn field. Damn! WHAT was i thinking!? But who am I? Hmm, a nobody nut. BUT, i’m no “red-scarf” either.

  2. voice of reason Reply Report comment

    April 18, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Indy style racing track, and a stadium for the Vikes! We can, its not real money

  3. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    General Obligation (GO) bonds must go to a public referendum. When they first starting talking about this issue they didn’t want to use the bonds because they knew it would have to come to a public vote. No bonds no vote. This is just my opinion but the reason they are talking about a vote now is because some of the council are up for re-election next time around and it sounds good to say I wanted a public vote. Another thing is with everything that is going on at the state the level getting the money for this is a very shaky this is way they are waiting. It is not because they want to it is because they have no choice. If they could build this thing tomorrow they would. I will say not all the council members are behind this but MOST are. Their are some on the council and the mayor that if they had their way this would not come to a public vote!!!

  4. need one Reply Report comment

    April 18, 2012 at 11:58 am

    with a multi-purpose arena in Mason City: concerts, the school bands can play there, sports, political rallies,reunions, that will bring people to mason city. If the town doesn’t build one, that a private company build one.

  5. 50 miles south Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    this is for Matt or someone who knows city and state regulations. It is my understanding, that any project the city wants to do with a budget over $400,000 by law has to be voted on by the citizens of that town. can anyone confirm this to be true with “all” projects.

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      April 17, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      No I don’t think that is exactly correct. Any public project using, I believe, anything over $700,000 in General Obligation (GO) bonds must go to a public referendum.

      • 50 miles south Reply Report comment

        April 18, 2012 at 9:51 am

        maybe 5 years ago in my town, it was a $400,000 maximun. this was for street repairs. guess what. the city engineer milked the total project so that LESS than $1000 was left before it went over the maximun $400,000. the city engineer was also paid a percentage of the total bill, rather than a flat rate. I am not sure if the dollar amount has changed since then, or the size of the town makes a difference. also maybe its what the money can be used for, or how its funded makes a difference. either way. this sports complex will cost more than either figure so then I will assume that it needs to be voted on.

  6. neknoh Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    As it stands right now, this is an idea that cannot and should not happen. This is mere window dressing by the “leadership” of Mason City.

    First and foremost Mason City needs job and population growth in order to make this venture happen. Next thing is that Mason City needs to address the issue of crime that is out of control for a small town of its size. No one wants to come to a town like Mason City only to have their car vandalized while parked outside of this civic center.

    And when I say that this is mere window dressing, look at it this way. You have a car that does not run and is broken down. Why then would you replace the windshield wipers, install a new radio, and replace the headlights? It does nothing to address the REAL issue of a car that is broken down. This is EXACTLY what the “leadership” of Mason City is doing right now. Mason City is broken down and does not run.

    • GlobeGazetteStinks Reply Report comment

      April 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      What a preposterous statement. neknoh… you don’t know what you’re talking about. The neighborhood and area that the Cedar Valley Sportsplex is being built in Waterloo makes Mason City crime look like a cake walk! Due to both private and public investments in this area (Young Arena, Riverfront and Public Market), it is improving. You talk about the need for jobs. Well neknoh, jobs today come from people who have their physical plant on a tablet or a laptop. So in other words, they can build their business where ever they want. In most cases, they want to build in communities that are business friendly and have excellent quality of life amenities.

  7. Joe Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Bad idea, bad location, no public support, no funds (except for raising taxes) and will never support itself. Will only take away from other venues. Support Hockey at the fairgrounds and concerts and events at NIACC, Surf and Music Man. We also have many nice gyms in town, including the publicly funded YMCA. Don’t spend a dime on this white elephant and any study. NO, NO, NO!!!

  8. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Next proposal will be a bar built in city hall to promote happiness at the work place.

    • Candy Bahr Reply Report comment

      April 17, 2012 at 10:20 pm

      Great idea! Smack in the middle of the cultural crescent! Bookee and Marino can have their booze at city hall & never leave! LOL! Money maker all the way!

  9. concerned Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Those cities can afford a complex and mason City cannot afford one. It is a big difference.

    I wish the civic leaders were as concerned about bringing in real jobs as much as wasting money on spendthrift schemes.

    The area south of Southbridge Mall should have nothing built on that floodzone. I still remember 2008.

    We have the North Iowa Event Center, the former fairgrounds. A dedicated ice arena could be built by the county for far less cost than the proposed complex.

    It is not really being used as a fair anymore. We go to Franklin or Worth counties for those things.

    Th be fair, our civic leaders have had success in one area. They have turned Mason City in the hub of North Iowa entertainment. From Mason City you can travel to Des Moines,the twin cities, county fairs in neighboring counties, the casino in Worth County and the white water area in Charles City.

  10. Jamey Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Waterloo-Cedar Falls growing, Mason City NOT and we wonder why.

    • Echo Reply Report comment

      April 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      This money pit Mason City is talking about building is not going to create growth but will raise our taxes.

    • jeff Reply Report comment

      April 18, 2012 at 6:02 am

      it’s not growing because we are doing nothing

      • common sense Reply Report comment

        April 18, 2012 at 8:17 pm

        what about that 33 million we just spent downtown?
        Not what I would have preferred but I would’nt call that nothing. I have been paying property taxes in this town for 25 years and I would bet most of the people on here that are for this arena don’t own property in this town so it won’t cost them anything.

  11. terry Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    You build it, they will come!! More riff raff!! Doesnt mason city have enough to worry about?? Cant even control your north end!!

  12. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Simple solution. Those who want it pay for it. You might not get a lot of support though because the survey our city government is ignoring showed of over 900 answering around 70 percent were against it. And I did read every response which is something I doubt the beerman and his puppets did.

  13. jeff Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Mason City needs but won’t build because people are afraid to move forward or think outside the box!

    • Observer Reply Report comment

      April 18, 2012 at 1:36 am

      OK Jeff, let us think realistic. Examine demographics. CF/Waterloo area has 164,913 as of 2009. Median income there, $39,163; family median $48,108.

      The Mason City area had 51,356 as of 2009. Median income here is 36,156; and family median $43,981.

      With those two basic givens, it would make sense that there is larger industrial base in CF/WLO than MC. Thus the tax base and value is almost double what we have in Mason City. Taking into account the lower median incomes, you have a problem. Oh, and did I mention that only Mason City citizens will be paying for it? That is only 28,700 people (12,000 households). Now you are running at an even smaller base (and shrinking every year) to finance the Multi-purpose arena.

      I don’t care how you slice it, there is not enough leverage in the City, so the cost per person/family and business will be much much higher that of CF/WLO.

      OK, call it an investment. TIF is not fairy dust magic. In addition to taking property off the tax rolls, you hope that it increases tax revenues surrounding the development. There is no guarantee, it’s a gamble. If tax revenue do not rise on the surrounding area to meet the TIF investment, guess who has to make up the difference? Hello red ink.

      Think about it’s use. Who will use it, and how many times in a year? What is the break even point? What happens if the cost to operate the place is not met, who pays? You betcha.

      Dis aint Chicago or Minne. It’s a small Iowa town. Grandiose just does not fit, no matter how many mirrors or whitewash you use.

      • GlobeGazetteStinks Reply Report comment

        April 18, 2012 at 6:45 am

        This type of risk adverse thinking is why Mason City is in the trouble it is in today.

  14. Aaron Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Why would mason city wanna put anything cool downtown?? Sports arena might bring something interesting to our lame ass area!!!

  15. Publius Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I will be on board with this, if and only if, they bulldoze four square blocks on the Northend to build it. That is the only way to create a “renaissance” in River City. This is the last freebie that Bookie gets from me. He has to pay for the rest of my proposed improvements.

  16. anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    The map of the “proposed location” is not accurately described.It’s the location, in the flood plain, that Randy Cram and Ron Fiscus proposed. Ed Wineinger proposed a location north of Willow Creek and part of it is in the flood plain. No location has been set for this.

  17. Ken Trollson Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I know Mayor Bookmeyer and Mr. Kuhn can get this done. They have the political capitol and expertise to get this project passed. They also have more wisdom than most of the bloggers here and I think you all need to stop naysaying and let the real experts explain this to you.

    • Publius Reply Report comment

      April 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm


      • Watcher Reply Report comment

        April 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

        @ Publius – **duh, I think we knew what they meant.

    • common sense Reply Report comment

      April 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      Ken you must be the mayors best friend by the way you talk down to people. The people will vote this down just like the school bond issue. the people with money in this town just don’t get it! The average working class can’t afford to keep paying higher taxes. This project is a waste, we get concerts at the surf, renting gym space from the schools works fine. The only thing we need is more ice time for hockey at the fairgrounds that is not a 20 million dollar problem. We don’t need political capitol we need all you people who want this to put up your capitol.

      • GlobeGazetteStinks Reply Report comment

        April 17, 2012 at 10:34 pm

        Hahahahahaha… common sense is such an oxymoron! Guess who is laughing at your comment? The people of Cedar Falls!!!! Why? Hmm… the expansion of the Cedar Falls Recreation Center was one of the reasons why Target Distribution Center is located there and not in Mason City. People like you will never get it. What a shame!!!

    • TheRealFred Reply Report comment

      April 17, 2012 at 7:36 pm

      ken TROLLson…….that is priceless! You’re aptly named, Ken.

  18. Larry Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Mason City does not need nor can it afford this. We already have a YMCA and NIAC has a great fitness area that is available. What are you going to do? create competion for the existing facilities. The Y is already struggling to make it and if Mercy pulls out of there as rumored,it will go under. You have the Fair Grounds with a existing ice rink. Are you going to put that out of business as well. The civic center in Osage is having problems getting enough money to operate and so will Mason City. Get real people. The only people who want this is the hockey player and the council members who want it on their resume. It will be voted down if it is allowed to come to a vote. Why do you think Drunkmier is so against allowing a vote.

  19. Lindz Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    No no no no no, MC does not need this. What MC needed was to do this BEFORE they wasted our money on the Park Inn, Library & Meredith Wilson crapola. Had this been their 1st idea, I would have been on board, but not now. I would love to know who would come to this crap town for entertainment. Des Moines, St. Paul & Waterloo baby!!!! It’s an event to get to go to concerts, games, etc. Not a hometown be home before 10 pm kind of deal. lmao!

  20. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm


  21. GlobeGazetteStinks Reply Report comment

    April 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Cedar Falls has had such a facility (Recreational Center) for decades. In regards to the Waterloo project, Young Arena (home of the USHL Black Hawks) is adjacent to this new facility being built. I’m sure the naysayers will beat this to heck, but quality of life projects like this will attract people and companies to Mason City.

    • Sarah Relow Reply Report comment

      April 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      I agree. Mason City needs this! I think the voters will approve this overwhelmingly. I hope they do it up big with the destination water park, my family would love it!!

      • TheRealFred Reply Report comment

        April 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm

        Yeah, while we’re at it, why don’t we just move the Minnesota Vikings here. They need a home.

        It all sounds wonderful until you get the tax bill to pay for it. Don’t forget, Michic and her band of merry thieves at the public school also have their hands out for more money.

    • Tom N Reply Report comment

      April 17, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Fred, I have 3 children in Mason City Schools and if the education they provide gets better I say give the schools more money. I am tired of people crying about this. OUR KIDS NEED MORE COMFORTABLE SCHOOLS.

      • Larry Reply Report comment

        April 18, 2012 at 9:40 am

        Tom-if you have three kids in school and want more for the schools, you pay for it yourself. I paid for my kids and I won’t pay for yours. The schools just want more and more and deliver less and less. These kids can’t even do simple math or make change at a store much less read a tape measure. What a waste.

    • Observer Reply Report comment

      April 18, 2012 at 1:57 am

      Quality of life? You want to speak towards quality of life, I’ll give it to you.

      Sunday morning, 9 am should be a quiet time to have coffee and reflect. If you live near US 65 or IA 122, forget it. Illegally loud cars, trucks and motorcycles make it a poor place to live. No enforcement. After 5 pm, those roads turn into dangerous places, with drag racing from the stop lights, excessive noise, reckless driving.

      You want to talk about quality of life? Look at the slums people offer as housing. Cobbled together, unmaintained, abused by residents.

      Quality of life? Every time we get a stiff wind, trash is blown all over town. We also have to spend extra money in City services to clean up after residents mow their lawns into the street.

      Quality of life? City officials and inspectors ignore unsafe conditions for months, allow material and junk to be stored outside on common ways. Allow workers on buildings to work in uneven areas using ladders and scaffolding. Allow buildings to sit unoccupied and open to children and adults.

      I’m sorry. Before we build more gems, we need to get the basics of community fixed, and focus on attractiveness. Otherwise it’s like trying to use a can of Lysol to mask the smell of a manure pit.

    • common sense Reply Report comment

      April 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Globegazettestinks you are an idiot! We could build the superdome here and target wouldn’t have came here. Not enough labor in this area to support a business that size. We can’t even keep a red lobster in this town because it is too small. so you keep dreaming about bringing the big city to little ol river it won’t happen.