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Citizens successfully submit petition to force vote on arena (video)

Phil Sanchez, Max Weaver and Larry Loeckle (all standing) submitted 267 signatures on a petition Thursday afternoon. City Administrator Brent Trout looked over the papers and provided proof of submission.

MASON CITY – Citizens concerned about the viability of a $13 million plan to build an arena in Southbridge Mall and then spend millions to lease it back from the dubious owner successfully submitted a petition to city hall today that would force the mayor and council to bring the matter before the public in a referendum.

Phil Sanchez, Max Weaver and Larry Loeckle arrived at city hall at 12:30 PM Thursday armed with 267 signatures. In a symbolic gesture, they stood outside Mayor Eric Bookmeyer’s office and explained their motivations to oppose his plan to inject $18 million into Southbridge Mall and the pockets of the owner Michael Kohan of New York. See the video below for their entire presentation.

The trio then submitted the petition to City Administrator Brent Trout. Max Weaver asked Mr. Trout to “stamp” the petition for proof that it was submitted legally and on time.

“We just don’t trust Eric,” Mr. Weaver said of his meticulous attention to detail on securing verification. “He’ll try to cross people’s names off the list.”

If the city council and mayor decide to proceed with the project, the issue must go before the voters. A potential referendum could be held in March. Bookmeyer must garner 60% of voters to support his plan in order to succeed in the referendum.

The city council – which has so far supported the plan unanimously – will have to decide if that option is a route they wish to go.

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This project will NOT bring one new employer to Mason City. It will not keep our kids from moving a way and Mason City will continue it’s decline. This project will be yet another BURDEN on the community.

The following developments were all supposed to grow Mason City and bring employers to Mason City.



This pie in the sky project will be no different. A few folks will make a lot of money up front doing the “deal” and the TAXPAYERS will be left paying the bill and saddled with LONG TERM responsibility.


Kenny the typist is sure doing a good job of convincing himself that this project is a good fit for Mason City. Which therefore tells me that Mr Kenny has no real knowledge of Mason City. River City does not have the population nor the status quo to support or need such a “multipurpose arena” once it is complete. Better go back to the drawing board.

Perfect, you understand the problem! We’re on the same page…Mason City does not have the demographic profile to attract meaningful job growth. Take your thought process a step further now…how do you fix this problem?

I can read the billboards now.
I’m sure our population will grow by the thousands because of this. This is not a solution to any type of real problem our city has.

Me and you…We’re totally on the same page! Two peas in a pod, really. We agree there are problems with our demographics…Mason City’s workforce is aging, isn’t terribly diverse, and has a low percentage of highly educated individuals. This puts the city at a sizable disadvantage when it comes to attracting growth industries (which is evidenced by our population decline).

If we want to start to skew those demographics more favorable, we should invest in quality of life enhancing projects to attract a young, , diverse, and educated workforce . And here is where we see eye to eye yet again…There isn’t just one magic bullet to fix this. It’s will take a critical mass of quality of life improving projects to turn the tide. The multi purpose arena is just a start.

There is not a shred of truth from the bullshit you are putting out. Mason City is diverse and has plenty of educated people willing to work. It’s dumb ass’s like you that want everyone to work for minimum wage.

Bring in in the jobs and you will see all the applicants you need.

The only reason you see help wanted signs is they don’t want to pay a living wage and people don’t stay working for them after they get the job at minimum wage.

This ice arena is a ruse for Kenny to line his pockets. The people of this town will NEVER vote for it. Ever, Ever, Ever.

You say, ‘bring in the jobs’. We want the very same thing! But how do we do it? Mason City is 92% white with a median age of 43 and about 20% of the population with at least a bachelors degree (national average is 63% white, 36 years old, 33% with at least a bachelors degree) . Those demographics are not favorable towards attracting growth industries like financial services, healthcare, or hi tech manufacturing. Mason City’s demographics are not well aligned with the new economy. Progressive cities would invest in infrastructure to address this. Cities which sit back and do nothing stagnate and slowly fade into obscurity.

We’re all saying the same things. We want Mason City to grow. We want good paying jobs to come to Mason City. Our only difference is that I’m offering solutions while others are still trying to understand the problem.

Let’s draw a comparison…Let’s say you publish a news site with low readership and which appeals to a mostly downtrodden, less affluent demographic. And consequently, this makes it difficult to capture significant adverting revenues. How can this be fixed? You already gave the answer. Invest. You could invest to attract the best journalists. Invest to increase distribution channels, and so on. A sane person wouldn’t simply sit around and do nothing as a solution to this problem.

Mason City has a growth problem. The industries in this country which are adding jobs require a youthful, diverse, and educated workforce. Mason City does not have this type of workforce. Mason City can fix the problem by investing in quality of life enhancing projects which attract this type of worker. Or the city can simply do nothing and continue to dwindle in population.

Aw Matt-I guess the snob Kenny(who is obviously one of the elite) thinks we and you are just some of the deplorable’s that are going to run this country and this city for the foreseeable future and he is running scared.

Dang! Thank goodness for weaver…..who else is watching the sneaky bastards who think they run the world. Thanks Max AGAIN!!
I recall someone saying during voting time..bookmeyer should want you back at the table, might not be as easy to beat “em at everything.
True….bookmeyer should think about that, cuz with you on the loose is ffantastic! Keep at it for we the people Max!

Maxwell has been extensively involved in Mason City politics for at least 25 years. Most sane folks would agree Mason City’s trajectory has been straight down in that time. Has it occurred to you that his circus antics at city council meetings and lack of formal education as it pertains to city planning and basic economic principals might be a big reason why?

A little common sense goes a long way!

Admittedly, some of the funding mechanisms used for this arena are difficult to understand and are concepts which frankly require more than just ‘common sense’. I fault city leaders some for not explaining these funding mechanisms better to the general public and allowing Mason City’s ‘coalition of curmudgeons’ to distort the project details.

I’m always amazed how folks can form such strong opinions when it’s clear they do not understand all the subject matter well.

Who are you trying to convince? If it is us you are wasting your time. If it is you, keep on trying.

If this is a city land owned property – the citizens will pay property taxes on it just like we do on all public property –then again – WHY are property owners obligated to pay property taxes on public land – 25 million valuation is no small property tax obligation — government crooks.

???? The mall is privately owned. Thereby, the arena would be privately owned and subject to property tax which the owner of the mall pays.

BTW. Government property is exempt from property tax. But as mentioned above, the arena would be privately owned.

I sure hope this ice arena pipe dream goes away. The population base of Mason City and the surrounding area is not big enough to support this kind of facility without permanut and long term tax dollars subsidizing it.

I know we have the Mayor and a bunch of Kenny types pushing this nonsense, but they really don’t give two shits about the people of Mason City and the negative fallout from yet another failure. They all make their money doing the deal.

Maybe Kenny should buy Southbridge from this out of state owner. Then it would be locally owned, thus putting to rest one of the fears of this shady deal. C’mon Kenny, what do you say? Help woo some of the towns people.

Two of the people that signed it only signed it to get the person to leave. They plan to vote for it.

I signed it and I am for the project. By signing the petition it does not mean you are not for the project, it just means you think the citizens should have the chance to vote on it which, IMO, is the right thing to do.

It’s the right thing to do. Any good business man WOULD NOT buy and then rent anything. Voting is appropriate for everything. Fair and square every time. No shoving a money ball right up our asses from bookmeyer and clan. After this summer he is capable of ANYTHING. Totally sick of his bullshit anyway.

The arrangement where a business pays for initial construction costs, then leases the facility back from a property manager is VERY common. It is exceedingly common in retail shopping centers, flex industrial space, etc. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages versus owning.

If this was a sound project capable of being self sustaining then a private investor would have built it. Every time a project comes forward that has no chance of making money the mayor and council wants to put it on the backs of the taxpayers. So much for making sound fiscally responsible decisions. Let the voters decide if this is what they want our elected officials wasting our money on.

This is what progressive, growing cities do. They invest in infrastructure and Mason City needs to do a lot more of it to reverse decades of deferring these types of investments. If you review the funding sources for the multi purpose arena, you’ll see the Mason City tax payer has been respected with no additional tax burden asked of them.

This is a bit of a red herring as it pertains to the multi purpose arena, but I’ll bite since it is interesting subject. If you recall, the Brandstand Administration claimed that Iowas high property rate was deterring economic growth and proceeded to apply a rollback factor to cut commercial property taxes across the board. Any economist will tell you there is no free lunch, and those lost revenue streams must be accounted for. Most (if not all) county and municipal governments had to increase residential valuations to compensate for the reduction in commercial property taxes.

It’s interesting to note that now we’re a few years into this commercial property tax relief program that Iowa has actually taken a significant dive in the state rankings of economic growth (we’re now 40-something out of 50 when it comes to economic growth).

In no way is an ice arena an investment in the infrastructure of the City. This is nothing more then a special interest project that benefits a very few and not the majority of the citizens. I don’t believe the tax payer has been protected from being asked to finance the up keep of this facility in the future. Put it to a vote

Recall, this is not a ice arena. It is a multi purpose arena with a semi pro hockey team as it’s main tenant.

Cities that invest in projects which enhance the quality of life for it’s citizens are cities that grow. Cities where the very vocal curmudgeons wind up setting city policy stagnate and slowly wither away (sound familiar, Mason Citians?).

The Bulls will leave, just like all the other teams. The leagues come and go. When they are gone, who will keep the lights on? Gonna let the horses in there too? How bout a washed up has-been concert?Nope, the surf own stuff the rights to those.

You’ve answered your own question. If the main tenant leaves, the calendar would simply be back filled with other events (concerts, rodeo, horse shows, monster trucks, etc). It’s happened to plenty of other arenas (Wells Fargo arena in Des Moines for example has had this happen at least twice) and they’ve managed just fine.

If you are comparing Southbridge arena to Wells Fargo Arena, you my friend, are bat shit crazy. Apples to oranges. I will answer my own question. Nobody. Nobody, will fill it. It will be unused and empty, making it worthless. And then Mr. New York City, will have it reevaluated, if he still even owns it. And pay way less than this plan requires to work. Then it’s the MC Taxpayer to rescue. No thanks.

Yes, there are risks. But risk can be managed. The risk you seem most concerned with is the main tenant leaving and having the place sit empty. This risk, is quite frankly, overstated. But none the less, this risk can be managed in just the manner you described earlier… It’s a multi purpose arena so the calendar would just be backfilled with other events (just like many other arenas have done when their main tenant has left).

The risk of the property owner requesting a reduced valuation is easily managed by contract language requiring a minimum assessment for the term of the lease. Easy peasy.

When was the last time a project like this went as planned and under budget? When plans change, and they will, who takes care of it? does the state of Iowa just hand over more money then? probably not.

Three honest men.

Zero college degrees?

I see we have a cheer leader on the inside named Kenny blogging for Mason City’s “tunnel to nowhere”.

This project should it actually become reality (which I am sure the voters will not approve) will be a PERPETUAL COST TO THE TAXPAYERS OF MASON CITY FOREVER!

A project of this kind could not make it on it’s own and therefore now a financially feasible project without taxpayer funding and backing.

This is all about payola and payoffs at the expense of the taxpayers for the political elite and insiders, You can bet Kenny is one of them.

The city has no business getting in the entertainment business. That is the role of private enterprise.

Alright, guys. Great job.

There is nothing wrong with our downtown. The mall is in excellent shape. All it needs now is new tenants and with the malls new owner only paying 1 1/2 million dollars the rent should be cheap enough for anyone to put a store in the mall and make a good living. It is sure no place for an ice arena. Who come up with that dumb idea?

I agree and the citizens have already paid the mall enough of their tax money. Leave it be a mall, that’s what the citizens of Mason City wanted.

There is unique opportunity at the Southbridge Site in that private investment has been proposed nearby which opens the door to state funding. This state funding is substantial and simply would not be available at the Sears site or Fairgrounds site. Either Sears or Fairground Sites would require General Obligation Bonds to be issued to build a multi purpose arena which would have a corresponding increase in everyone’s property tax bill.

State funding is our hard earned tax dollars you shit birds want to spend, Your private funding is for your benefit. Quit carping about destroying our beautiful downtown mall with your dumb ice bullshit so you can line your pockets. Have you not figured out the people see right through your ruse?

If Mason City turns down the state funding, you do understand the state dollars will simply go to another community, correct? The state dollars won’t magically be re-deposited into your check. Might as well use it for something badly neededin your town.

The possible $7 to $10 million from the state is just a drop in the bucket of the cost for this unwanted project and it will continue to cost us in leasing, maintenance, etc. for many years to come and it will obviously NOT be self supporting. Also, I really doubt that the Youth hockey assoc, will raise the $2 million and of course we will get stuck with that too,

10 million of the 13 million is more than just a ‘drop in the bucket’ in my estimation. Unless you want Mason City to continue on it’s current trajectory of dwindling population and a increasingly less affluent demographic profile, the city is going to have to make investments in quality of life enhancing projects.

$13 million…LOL!!! It will be MUCH more than that!!

Bull-we hear that crap every time you elites want some ting to feather your own nest at our expense. We heard it with the mall, Northbridge, Streetscape, the Park Inn and on and on. It never happens and you just want more.

Over $37 million!!!

$37M is the total River City Renaissance Project cost. Of which a substantial portion is private investment $$$! $13M for the multipurpose arena of which $10M is available from state funds because of the accompanying private investment.

Since when is an Ice Arena a necessity ?? U are apparently connected to our leaders,in which no one I know has any trust. There are so many things that could go wrong and it should not be up to the taxpayers to pay for the crap that our present leadership wants to shove down our throats…. So, if the Hockey team leaves town…. you can bet that the Junior hockey league could not afford this on their own. That is a possible contingency since it almost happened a couple of years ago already. With this questionable owner of the mall, what’s to say that he won’t just shut it down and take it as a tax write-off, it appears that he has done that before. And, one of the biggest issues out there, that people will just not face, is that is really a blue collar town, and 75% of the citizens ( according to us census data) make on $ 31,000 for a family of 4. U know that they cannot afford to take a family to an Ice Arena or a hockey game. They cannot afford to take their kids to the movies,, a family of four with tickets and treats costs about $ 60.00. Tons of people cannot pay their rent… and provide the basics. The people are looking for affordable amenities and things that they can do with their families….Let’s look at reality once and awhile here folks…

Yes, there are risks, but risk can be managed. Your concerns about the mall owner could be managed by the use of surety bonds and your risk of the hockey team leaving is overstated as the absence of a hockey team would likely only be a temporary situation and revenues could be backfilled by booking other events in its place.

By your own admission, the workforce in Mason City is largely blue collar and not well suited to attract growth industries like professional services and hi tech manufacturing. Great! We’re on the same page as to why Mason City continues to dwindle in population. How do we fix that? The city must invest in quality of life enhancing projects to attract a youthful, educated workforce that appeals to these growth industries.

I’m all for getting a new arena/multipurpose center. I just do not think we should partner up with the guy from New York at that bought the mall. If you do research on him he seems pretty shady. Why can’t we invest our dollars with somebody locally to do this project? For that matter the hockey club could’ve purchased the entire mall with the $2 million they are putting up for this project. At least then we would be dealing with somebody local.

Also, they need to leave the parking lot by City Hall alone. It is full everyday for downtown parking and works great for downtown events like Band Fest and Ragbrai… LEAVE THE PARKING LOT!!!

Why don’t Mason City focus on bring job growth that is meaningful to bring good paying jobs to town. I am sure people would vote for a good company that brought good jobs to town. There are a lot of companies that will be expanding that arn’t related hogs that would be a good fit for Mason City. Sell bonds to help them out. Start working for the working man and woman instead of worrying about that stupid downtown.

Let’s hear it for the working people for a change.

Drunkmayor figures the downtown rehab is the easiest way to put something on his resume.

Cities do this all the time. Including Mason City. Therein lies the problem with your strategy…new businesses can get city paid infrastructure absolutely anywhere. So the next criteria progressive cities must evaluate are things like access to raw materials, access to qualified employees, access to capital, access to customers, etc.

It should be for the people to decide. There are still a lot of “ifs” and unanswered questions. What if things don’t go as planned? Who picks up the slack? What if this also goes down the shitter like Southbridge? What happens if this new mall owner goes belly up? This project needs more steadfastness and a solid foundation.

Why would anyone be upset about asking for a vote on this project? Like another posted, if you’re for this or against it you should not be against a vote. Isn’t that what it democracy supposed to do?

Three numbskulls, cause they are certainly not the three wise men. Prime example of the ‘kill Mason City development’ crowd. It is quite evident they are out of their depth. They did have every right to promulgate this petition, wont deny them that, but some of their statements in this video are just stupid.
I wish someone would have made a petition for the citizens to vote on the packing house, because if they had Prestage would be building it here right now! No one thought our illustrious councilmen at the time would have voted down such a move forward. These idiots in the video should just stay home or get jobs.

What’s the big deal? All they are doing is asking for a vote. If the people of Mason City want this then it will pass with no problem.

So you wanted a disgusting pork plant built in Mason City that exploits it’s workers! You are obviously afraid of the vote to the people!

If the pork plant was such a great thing for MC, why didn’t the people promoting it get up a petition to put it to a vote. That would have been the easiest thing to do, to avoid all the negative controversy and put it to rest.

So glad I moved out of your town that is spiraling down into a worthless dump of a town. This “news” site reports the very minimum information to stir up the public to shoot down everything the city tries to do to breathe life into this town. Good luck growing your community with younger people without anything to bring them in. Not sure why offering an activity for youth in the community with millions of tax free dollars is a bad idea. Good luck, and good riddance!!

We are so glad someone like is gone too.

Bingo! You nailed it. You have pegged NIT and the no development crowd in this town precisely.

I support this project and I am glad it is going for a vote of the citizens. Something that will impact this city this much should be voted on by everyone. I am confident that it will pass.

Since this guy is homesick for MC, maybe you could invite him back Mr. Might.

And yet you still read and comment on this site – you must be homesick for Mason City.

please explain to me how the state has one dollar of free money to spend? Where did every dollar the state has ever spent come from?Please tell me how the state has free dollars to spend? How did they get these free dollars at any level?

Mayor Bookmeyer told the Iowa Economic Development Authority on May 21, 2015: “There is no end to the line of citizens calling us, emailing us, stopping us in the stores and on the practice fields to express their support for Our River City Renaissance (ice hockey project)”. Therefore, he should win the referendum hands down, don’t you think? GREAT JOB Max and company!!!

Does the petition, as submitted, still reference Iowa Code 384.26, as the basis for a Special Election?

Why do you ask? It that important?

It is significant…

While I think the city council has done a good job of identifying this opportunity to build a multi-purpose arena without affecting property taxes, the council has clearly done a poor job explaining to the general public about how this protect would be funded. A portion of the funding is TIF financing and this is where the petition was previously attempting to be obtusely applied (unless the wording and references have changed).

Iowa Code 384.26 deals with General Obligation Bonds. General Obligation Bonds are not a piece of the funding for this protect (insert sad trombone noise here).

What are you smoking? If it didn’t affect property taxes the citizens would not be asked to vote on it.

There is no need for a multi purpose center for a small town like MC. This is just another tax boon doggie that is being promoted for the rich. They will dangle the children carrot but the people will see through that and get more pissed.

Any kind of tax dollars; state, county, or local are involved. Doesn’t matter from what agency they come from, they are collected through taxation.

You are just one more spin doctor I am sure that is working for the downtown click. At the end of the day, you are just one more lying politican, elected or not!

Review the funding mechanisms and enlighten me as to which ones will affect your property tax bill. You do understand that there is no public vote for this, right? This is simply a petition to request a special election (whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen).

This town needs to do something to reverse decades of population decline and address the severe poverty issues which are present here. Investing in quality of life enhancing projects is certainly a good way to do both.

You’re right there. This would go down exactly like the YMCA, with talk of “for the kids” but with $800 yearly membership, MOST cannot afford it and we spent $1 million taxpayer dollars plus for the few. Hockey arena should NOT be funded by the Public for the FEW who will use it and should NOT be built downtown! GET OUT & VOTE NO!!!

There is that risk, yes. There is also risk if Mason City continues to dwindle in population and trend towards a less affluent demographic profile that the city will eventually have inadequate revenues to pay for infrastructure. I prefer to live in a city that is progressive and takes managed risks to improve its residents quality of life.

It will take a ‘critical mass’ of quality of life projects to turn the tide where young, educated workers look at Mason City as a compelling place to live. We have to start somewhere. This multi purpose arena is a start.

An ice arena will only enhance Ice skaters and people that are into that scene. It will NOT enhance any real quality in Mason City. Actually it will continue the decline Mason City’s growth. You keep pushing tax burdens and no industrial job growth and this town will just keep going down hill, This whole ice arena that is being pushed onto the backs of the people is nothing more than a temporary money making scam for the big shots that could give two shits about the people of the town,

This is just another political pipe dream that is diverting attention from real meaningful growth and jobs.

The whole ice arena benefits very few Mason City citizens.

The facility isn’t a ‘ice arena’. It’s a multi purpose arena whose main tenant is a semi pro hockey team. Just like any private commercial real estate developer needs a main tenant before building speculative office or retail space, the multi purpose arena needs a main tenant to make the $$$ numbers work. The facility would also host concerts, monster trucks, shows, etc. Loook at Bridgeview Center in Ottumwa to see a similar offering of entertainment events.

Many in this town erroneously think traditional manufacturing jobs should be clammoring to come back to Mason City…Mason City could have the lowest property taxes and the country and traditional manufacturing still would not come here (those types of jobs go to Mexico and China). Our national economy is based on services and hi tech manufacturing. Mason City’s demographic profile is unfavorable towards attracting these types of industries (aging population and low percentage of highly educated individuals). Cities like Mason City can invest in infrastructure that attracts young, educated workers and thereby attract these growing industries.

What happens when the “main tenant” leaves. The Huskies left. The Outlaws left. The NW Knights weren’t really even here to be able to leave. High school games don’t exactly rake in the dough. I can’t imagine having a “multipurpose arena” is a main criteria when choosing a city to move to either.

This is a good thing for everyone. Whether you want the project or not, giving the voters a chance to decide makes it fair for everyone. No one should be opposed to holding a public vote on this project.

We voted it down once and now will have to do it again.

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