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Water into wine? City looks to turn mall into ice hockey rink

This news story was published on March 1, 2015.
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NIT Opinion –

JC Penneym January 8, 2015

JC Penney, January 8, 2015

We just learned in January that JC Penney is tucking its tail between its legs and limping out of Southbridge Mall, permanently.

The march out of the Cultural Crescent / downtown has turned from a trickle into a stampede, it seems, as of late. Word is, a couple nearby stalwart restaurants might be next. Poof, gone. You may wake up one spring or summer morning to see “closed” signs in the front doors. The mall is on life support; everyone knows that and recognizes it except TJ Just (doesn’t pay all his bills) and a couple dozen die-hard cheerleaders who just ignore the writing on the wall. God bless ya, you’re about all Mason City has left. How they will spin it when KIMT moves to Rochester ought to be a hoot, indeed.

Now here we are, a few short weeks after Penney’s announcement. Sometime between January 8 and February 23, the city got the news and decided to turn that soon-to-be-vacant mall anchor into an ice hockey rink. That’s six weeks. Plans were formed, architectural drawings were rendered, city staff was consulted, meetings were held (who knows in what order)… and a decision was made to go for it.

Seems there is some state money out there to be had. That’s still our tax dollars, public money; the story is being spun that Mason City should try to grab that money before someone else does. No harm in that unless you feel like you pay too much to the state. Apparently, the city tried to grab that cash by the arm last year but was one or two beers short of a six pack and got turned down.

This time around, city staff claim this application to the state is stronger.  They list 5 “projects” that are a part of the application that will be sent to Des Moines.  These projects include the latest version of a hotel to be placed in a public parking lot next to city hall (they’ve been feeding that one to the public since October of 2013); a parking ramp (would be the first one in Mason City, ever); a mixed-use retail and residential development that would be built on a gravel parking lot at North Federal Avenue and Second Street (more retail two blocks from a mall that can’t keep its stores open); the latest attempt at a performing arts pavilion (Robin Anderson’s apparent pet project that she’s tried to build a number of times in the past, last time in 2013 outside the library); and last but not least, a $12 million hockey rink inside the JC Penney building.

Robin Anderson wants her pavilion.  You don't tell Robin no, and she's an ace at spending public money.

Robin Anderson wants her pavilion. You don’t tell Robin no, and she’s an ace at spending public money.

Sources say our favorite free-loading mayor, Eric Bookmeyer, has been dreaming of an arena since he was elected.  Since he has virtually no legacy in Mason City outside of setting the town back 50 years on the civil rights front, he needs this arena.  He needs it bad.  He would be forgotten in 6 months when he mercifully leaves office someday, without it.  Only thing he would leave behind if he left today would be his butt-cheek imprints on bar stools all over town.  So, Eric is working over-time (if you can believe that) to push this through.  He’s got Robin in his corner, as always; you can see her fingerprints all over the pavilion; she’s wanted that for years.

Problem is, the plan seems fraught with short-comings.  How can the state approve this plan?  Let’s evaluate.

  • We already have a performing arts pavilion.  It’s that goofy old flat-bed semi-truck trailer the Globe parks downtown for music acts.   Plus, we have the band shell.  Everybody knows, our governor is a Republican and he hates duplication of services.  Strike one.
  • A downtown parking ramp would be the first of its kind here.  City hall never made Mercy build one; instead, we have a sea of concrete lots.  If this ramp is built, does it mean Mason City is looking to enter the 21st century?  This one’s a wash.
  • The town has made it clear it’s not interested in a hockey rink or arena.  Most folks are afraid that eventually, their tax dollars would subsidize it.  They don’t want the risk, and they said so a few years back.  There is a vocal minority that wants the arena.  Maybe they can prove that they will keep it up without help from taxpayers.  Strike two… too much bad history.
  • A retail and residential building downtown might work.  But, it looks bad for new retail shops when its neighbors will be cell phone repair shops, pawn shops, dollar stores and plenty of vacant store fronts.  Who wants to live in the apartments/condos above those retail shops with the crime downtown?  You can call this one a wash, just to be nice, but it don’t look good.
  • The hotel is supposedly looking to open in a community that has razor-thin profit margins and low vacancy rates.   Just like in 2013, when the people were lied to by city hall, the Globe and KIMT about “ground being broken in April” on the first version of the hotel, this deal seems shaky.  Who knows, maybe it will go through.  City hall’s plan seems to be to keep telling the story until it comes true.  They have proven they will lie about anything to win an election or to protect themselves, make themselves look good somehow.  This hotel story that gets re-gurgitated by Humpty Dumpty at 300 North Washington every few months is trying to accomplish that but people are getting wise.  Huge strike three.

All this might fly in a town that has momentum.  Even a plan as odd as this one might work in a place that is adding residents, new businesses, good paying jobs – growing.  Problem is, everyone knows Mason City is going the other way.  Census numbers prove that the mayor and his council have failed miserably in reversing the trend of a shrinking community.  All his bloviating, year after year, in his “state of the city” addresses has gone absolutely nowhere but south.  He’s created the low-wage capitol of North Iowa, where great jobs pay $9.50 and we watch nearby Lake Mills, Osage, Charles City, Thompson, Clear Lake add hundreds of good-paying jobs and we get nothing.  He’s helped create a business climate where temp-jobs rule the day.  If the mayor was telling you the truth, he’d admit he can look out his own front window and see felonious crimes take place with regularity (500 block of East State Street).

If the city can sell this deal to the state, despite the sloppiness of the plan and the realities of this community, well, that’s great.  That’s progress.  Miracles do happen, congrats, build it.  Some of us are tired of turning a blind eye, however, and just tell it like it is.  It will be interesting to see what the state agency says, the one that writes the check.


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61 Responses to Water into wine? City looks to turn mall into ice hockey rink

  1. al Reply Report comment

    March 26, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    When will this dying city learn. First was the Mall that would save the city. Then Meredith Willson, Then moving a grocery store a half a block for only $6 milion plus. Next came the hotel,, and how’s that working out for you? You’ve gotten rid of most of those who participated in those fiascos…except the one pictured above. Time to clean house before things really get out of hand…i.e. the “fish” in city hall.

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      March 26, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      @al-I completely agree with you. They have lied to the people of this city so many times it can’t be counted. Where on the surface this seems like a decent project with their past history you know they will screw us over again Besides, there are not enough people in this town to support this so you know they are depending on people in the area to support it. That will not happen and it will fall on the taxpayers to bail it out. Almost all civic centers have failed.

  2. Grizz Reply Report comment

    March 24, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Mr. Watchdog, why would an industry or any person for that matter want to come to a city without a working sewer or water system? Are they not infrastructure? I guess not, just stuff. Or bull****. Or whatever.

    • Watchdog Reply Report comment

      March 24, 2015 at 4:50 pm

      @So Grizz what are you telling me? You can’t flush your toilet? You don’t have running water in your house?

      Or are you just looking for an excuse to spend tax dollars?

  3. Watchdog Reply Report comment

    March 23, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Anonymous is a liberal that likes to live off of taxes.

    Here is the scoop:

    Mason City don’t want growth. The big shots don’t want undesirable people that comes with job growth. Their words!

    Since 1980 the city has spent over 50 million dollars on the downtown and infrastructure. We got noting to show for it except stuff.

    You want positive? Give all the money for this bullshit to an employer that will pay wages that a family can live on.

    Stop putting the cart ahead of the…

  4. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 7, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Some people say building the mall was a mistake, maybe, maybe not. But it’s there. Now something needs to be done to keep our downtown going. I think this is a good thing. It keeps the city moving forward. It will help bring more retail into the mall. People will shop here, instead of going out of town. The current ice rink is in need of repair, and the horse associations will probably love having that building to use. I dont understand why some cant see this as a positive.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 7, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      If nothing is done to save the mall, then downtown will be a ghost town. Then what. Then those same people complaining will still be complaining. With some, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The city needs this. No “industry” is going to come to a ghost town. We have to show we are a community with something to offer. And this is a start.

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      March 7, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      @Anonymous-It can be a positive. Just do not use tax money to fund something that is obviously special interest. How hard is that? Taxes were not made for this type of stuff. We had a vote on it once and it was voted down by the people of Mason City. Now they are trying to come through the backdoor to get what they want. Do not expect us to be happy about that. Spend the money bringing in good jobs, not on someones idea of recreation. Or, fix the damn streets.

      • Anonymous Reply Report comment

        March 7, 2015 at 8:30 pm

        The money they are trying to get from the state came from tax payers. But if we don’t receive it, another community will. I’m wondering if this fund is similiar to the Vision Iowa fund that the state had a few years back. Wouldn’t you rather have those state dollars come here than somewhere else? Mason City is entitled to that fund as much as any community is. The money is there, I say go for it.

      • Anonymous Reply Report comment

        March 8, 2015 at 12:44 am

        LVS-I don’t think you understand how the project is being funded. Southbridge will still own and maintain the building. The hockey association will put up about $2 million and pay for the operating expenses. The other funds are coming from the Reinvestment Act which deals with “quality of life” issues not jobs or city streets. Also, you’re not going to attract many business to towns w/o hotels or quality of life issues.

        • LVS Reply Report comment

          March 8, 2015 at 9:06 am

          @Anonymous-I understand completely. I just have a problem with using tax money for private business and that is what this is. If you read the proposal it is loaded with tax payments. You can say TIF but that is tax money lost and eventually you will run out of people paying. You know they are going to throw in any infastructure cost on the city taxpayers dime. Just like they did Central Park for the Park Inn. Private business should be funded privately.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 8, 2015 at 12:27 am

      How was the mall a mistake? It was a crucial hub of commerce for North Iowa for a long time. The mall just fell victim to the changing times, e-commerce and the rising trend in outlet malls.

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 8, 2015 at 9:09 am

        @Anonymous-You are kidding, Right?? The building of the mall completely destroyed the down town area. Maybe you don’t remember how it was but I do. It has struggled ever since the built that monstrosity. Malls are failing all over the country and this one never was that great. Once they lost the movie theaters they went down hill fast. Why do you think the theaters moved out West? If we had that money back that was wasted on the mall we could really do something. They bought the place for 8…

  5. Wow Reply Report comment

    March 6, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Why is it when people think of “good paying jobs” do I think they must be thinking of the old factory jobs that left 10 years ago in Mason City. Tourism is a real job and pays real money but that is never considered “good paying jobs” and some people in the tourism industry can get paid very well.
    Could the “good paying job” be something other than a “factory” job in our vision of what Mason City could be? Not saying factory jobs are bad, but can we vision differently without…

    • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

      March 7, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      Valid point. While nothing wrong with factory work, it’s not for everyone.

      • Wow Reply Report comment

        March 7, 2015 at 2:33 pm

        I think about all the commodities in the area, sugar, corn, soybeans, etc…I think about all the grains in our area. I think of AMPI and how this very large factory that essentially worked with cultures and making different milk products, and I think, wow..this could be totally set up for a brewery. With all the IPA’s and the popularity of Boulevard type IPA’s, this could be a place to have good jobs in a evolving industry.

  6. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 6, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    lol at LVS having no idea what the “Road Use Tax Fund” is or how it is distributed.

    Why would I pay for a sub to this site? I wouldn’t get much utility from it anyways. I get better information from alumni and pay sports sites ( than this one. Since you know so much about bringing back “high paying” wage slave, economy dependent jobs, why don’t you run for public office and make it happen? It’s ok, you’re not the only one that is in denial about today’s global economy.

    • Watchdog Reply Report comment

      March 23, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      What this supporter (posting as Anonymous) of the local organized graft tax rip of scheme is really saying?

      I am only here on NIT so I can run my mouth in support of this huge boondoggle so me and my buddies can make a ton of money. I am to cheap to buy a subscription.

      The rest of you people living and paying taxes in Mason City are here for me to step on!

  7. Web Reply Report comment

    March 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    LVS has never posted a positive thing on this site. He gives no ideas on how to change things for the better, he just complains, whines and bad mouths people who try to make things better.
    LVS is basically part of the problem, he blames society for his problems as he sits at home feeling sorry for himself. This is all just my opinion of course and LVS does not care about my (or anyone else’s) opinion unless it’s one he agrees with. Typical for his type!!

    • LVS Reply Report comment

      March 6, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      @Web-You want something positive, here it is, get rid of our current administration and get someone in there that will support all of the people all of the time instead of special interest. Another positive thing would be to run people like you out of town. You are the reason this town has gone to shit.

      • Web Reply Report comment

        March 6, 2015 at 6:00 pm

        LVS-They are changing the culture in this town to keep people like me in this town. I am part of the future of this town, not the past. My generation are the future tax payers. I am not what is bringing this town down, I am what will save this town. Projects like this will keep people like me from leaving!! Without my generation sticking around this town is doomed. You, on the other hand, could care less about my generation staying here.That is why YOU are bringing this town down, not me.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 6, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Just curious…what jobs in Charles City, Lake Mills, Thompson etc are considered “good paying” jobs? They’re “good” jobs if you have little to zero post-secondary education and aspire to be lower middle class for the rest of your life. They’re no different than Curries/Graham or any of the other manufacturing jobs in North Iowa. The economy is driven by innovation and people willing to get what they need, not people crying for jobs to come to them.

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 6, 2015 at 5:45 pm

        At least they work for a living and pay taxes. That is more than a low life troll like you does. You tell me exactly where all that education would get you in North Iowa other than the ability to cheat the working people. You are so used to sponging just like you do here you think the rest of us owe you something and that is just not true for a cowardly troll.

        • Anonymous Reply Report comment

          March 6, 2015 at 7:19 pm

          I don’t feel like anyone owes me anything. If I need something, I’ll get it myself. I’m not the one that thinks the city council or government need to find him a better job. That’s you, plus you seem to contradict yourself quite a bit on here.

          • Web

            March 6, 2015 at 8:16 pm

            Trust me, LVS has no idea how to debate his point or opinion. Once you disagree with him he just starts calling you names and putting you down. He often contradicts his self. Mostly he just likes to complain.

          • LVS

            March 7, 2015 at 11:55 am

            I pay for the right to say what I want. You two are just trolls who are on the welfare dime. Always wanting something for nothing. What a waste of skin you both are.

      • Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

        March 7, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        What you say is true, but if you only strive to get hired at the companies the MC mayor / council / Corridor bring to MC, you will be solidly in poverty or worse. You could starve or freeze to death working at those jobs for minimum wage. The way those people look down their noses at the common people, I doubt they would lose a minute’s sleep over it. There is something inherently rotten / evil about the mayor and his cronies. That’s just my opinion. The good news is, karma lurks out there, and it might just bite back one of these Spring days.

  8. Watchdog Reply Report comment

    March 6, 2015 at 7:35 am

    Just remember, this is all about money for the movers and shakers that are promoting this nonsensical development.

    At the end of the day Robin Anderson and the Chamber, Bookmeyer, City Council, and Cerro Gordo Supervisors are only interested in pumping money into the local Mason City economy so their rich friends can make a bunch of money. (all at taxpayers expense)

    Then the rich friends donate to their campaigns and give them “other” perks not in the public eye.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 6, 2015 at 9:18 am

      No, it’s about parents who actually spend a lot of money volunteering their time and effort towards the ice hockey program and a decent facility for kids to play in. The community gets a lot of utility from the Bulls as well. There’s not a whole lot else to do in MC other than visit a chain restaurant or two or head to the local bar and get drunk w/the rest of the $12-15 hour employees. There’s a quality of life issue and I’m all for promoting that.

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 6, 2015 at 9:36 am

        @Anonymous-How typical of a establishment lackey. On any given night there might be 600 people at a hockey game with a lot of them being relatives of the players. Why the hell should the city go into debt because of that many people? If they want to play hockey let them pay for it themselves.

        • Anonymous Reply Report comment

          March 6, 2015 at 10:32 am

          They have been paying for it themselves. It shows how little you know about the process and how the bills are paid. How do you think the association raises money? Who do you think pays the water bills, utility bills? Rink rental? Who do you think has been the driving force behind the fund raising for a new arena over the years? 600 people at a hockey game including the Bulls and HS games is a negative in your mind? Seems like you’re the dumb ass here.

          • LVS

            March 6, 2015 at 12:33 pm

            @Anonymous-If you have all that money then build your own damn rink. We are sick of you special interest lackey’s using our tax money for your pet projects. Our money should go for infastructure and that is all. Dumb Ass.

          • Anonymous

            March 6, 2015 at 1:19 pm

            I doubt you have a clue as to what money is earmarked for infrastructure and such. After all, didn’t we just experience a 10 cent increase in our fuel tax?

            What “infrastructure” are you talking about? It’s clear by your comments on the retail jobs that you’re somewhat opposed to a healthy commerce and trade economy. lol @ “special interest lackeys” I highly doubt you even know where the tax revenue is coming from.

          • LVS

            March 6, 2015 at 1:42 pm

            @Anonymous-hey Fool, that 10 cent tax is a state tax and that wouldn’t be necessary if it wasn’t for people like you using tax money for other purposes. You really have no clue do you? Other than you want it and you don’t mind other people paying for what you want. And, the good paying jobs could very easily come back if we had a local government that was going after them instead of bleeding the tax payers dry by giving everything away to special interest. It was voted down once.

          • LVS

            March 6, 2015 at 1:44 pm

            @Anonymous-Look who is talking about paying anything when you are to damn cheap to even buy a subscription on N.I.T. Instead you just troll around shooting off your mouth.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 6, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      I’m still trying to figure out what “rich” friends they’re funneling money to. Care to outline where? I get that there’s hardly a middle class anymore in Iowa compared to our urban centers around the country, but some of you are offering up zero solutions. Those old, high paying blue-collar jobs are not coming back. The sooner you accept that, the better off we’ll all be.

  9. anon Reply Report comment

    March 6, 2015 at 2:12 am

    OMG book and fake pearls are nuts. Move to a place that is how you really want to live. How is it you stand living here? Is it because other great cities would be on to you and the fraud of yourselves?

    This is insane. Really? ice? More percentage of people went to Pennies that will EVER go there. Aaaand…Again take a look at cool hip cities…figure it out!
    Ice? Unbelievable

  10. Watchdog Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Why don’t Mason City want job growth? I mean real job growth not the retail and not the $10 to $15 dollar per hour jobs that they claim are so great.

    Once again the idiots are “putting the cart ahead of the horse”.

    • Anonymous Reply Report comment

      March 6, 2015 at 9:21 am

      The McKesson facility isn’t “real job growth?” Who are all these people sitting around and asking for jobs to come to them? Go find a better job or get a better education. It’s that simple

      • LVS Reply Report comment

        March 6, 2015 at 9:40 am

        @Anonymous-Hey dummy. The McKesson Facility is in Clear Lake not Mason City. All we get here are more strip malls and a hotel that will have only part time help. Wake up. This town is dying and almost buried.

        • Anonymous Reply Report comment

          March 6, 2015 at 10:37 am

          Yea, and Mason City actively contributed money to this endeavor. The North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Group is comprised of all of Cerro Gordo County, including Mason City. Maybe you should do a little research sometime and learn something along the way. If you cannot understand this, then perhaps you have no business discussing any sort of economic issue regarding North Iowa.

          • LVS

            March 6, 2015 at 12:35 pm

            @Anonymous-Maybe you should learn how to read a map, stupid.

          • Anonymous

            March 6, 2015 at 4:56 pm

            lol yea, I’ll go read a map. Judging from your ad hominem attacks, you clearly don’t get it.

  11. Grizz Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Gotta agree with LVS on this one.

  12. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2015 at 10:08 am

    lol at the comment stating that the majority of people attending events at the surf are from Mason City..yea..ok

  13. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 5, 2015 at 10:07 am

    The people whining about the ice rink are part of the stagnation of the city. There definitely needs to be an upgrade, yet there are a lot of people in this town who lack the vision and education to make it happen. Too many people depending upon jobs at places like Curries or Armour to make a living. It’s their own damn fault that they have low paying job and they hardly pay the lion’s share of the taxes anyways. It’s always some goober on disability who complains about taxes the most.

  14. rahmbo Reply Report comment

    March 4, 2015 at 12:06 am

    Mason City is no more than a dormitory where people sleep and rest up for their low wage jobs where they work selling cheap junk, groceries, used cars, and gasoline, etc., to each other.

    There’s nothing attractive or unique to the place.

    Every citizen could leave tomorrow and the city could fall of the earth, and there would be very little to memorialize it.

  15. LVS Reply Report comment

    March 3, 2015 at 8:48 am

    People really need to read the article in the GLOB. Everything in there is TAXES. Parking Ramp=TIF, Pavilion=$191,00 of 1.65 MILLION (Where do you think the rest comes from??? Ice Arena 12 million needed-Hockey Assoc=2 million, Reinvestment District Revenues (TAX)=4.8 Million, LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX=1.2 million, TIF TAX=3.5 million, Cerro Gordo County=$500,00o Tax Donation. This thing is full of tax. They are playing us for fools again.

  16. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 3, 2015 at 6:35 am

    Downtown Mason City is a junk yard. Now more money from the taxpayers for business to try and make money. Why don’t they just give away all that tax money to an employer that would provide good paying jobs? Mason City always focuses on giving tax money to some retail business that provides shit jobs. Never even try to give away money to bring in employer with high paying jobs here. WHY?

    The people in Mason City are ignorant.

  17. Johnny R Reply Report comment

    March 2, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Can we move that stupid race track to the mall too???
    Although not sure if you would have enough flys buzzing around the
    concession stand food without a horse barn ten feet away….

    • mememe Reply Report comment

      March 2, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      It’s a FAIRGROUNDS DORK! A place for FARM ANIMALS. Don’t like it? STAY AWAY!

      • Johnny R Reply Report comment

        March 3, 2015 at 3:05 am

        Dummy, thanks for letting me know it’s supposed to be a fairgrounds… Does that mean insecticide don’t work there? Oh wait that costs money ,I forgot, we can’t even keep the water on..
        Sell this mud grounds to the highest bidder and move on…

  18. Johnny R Reply Report comment

    March 1, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Build a hockey rink in that dumpster fire of a mall???
    I think that’s a great idea, it will be fun to watch it fail…

  19. LVS Reply Report comment

    March 1, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Historically Civic Centers turn into money pits for the taxpayers. With the tax base already being reduced due to a lack of decent jobs they would be foolish to take on any more expense.

    • mememe Reply Report comment

      March 2, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      Clear Lakes SURF civic center appears to be doing quite well. No money pit problem there. And lots of great entertainment have/are playing there. And CL is less than 8000 population. So what’s MC’s excuse for not having a decent entertainment venue? Oh now I recall…too many naysayers like you NITWITS. bch bch bch.

      • rahmbo Reply Report comment

        March 4, 2015 at 12:09 am

        Probably the majority of folks attending the Surf are from Mason City. Don’t think it’s Clear Lake’s 8000 population doing all the support.

        • LVS Reply Report comment

          March 4, 2015 at 8:52 am

          @rahmbo-exactly right. Without the surrounding support and the Surf name the Surf would have failed long ago. Mason City just has the name as a failure. If they think for one minute that a hockey rink will support what they are planning they need their heads examined. Maybe 900 people show up on any given night. Big deal.