MASON CITY | Mason City voters have approved two ballot measures that will allow the city to continue its plans for a roughly $39 million downtown project.
One of the ballot items concerning the River City Renaissance Project asked voters whether to approve a lease agreement to construct a ice arena/multipurpose center, with a total construction and lease cost not to exceed $18 million.
The other item asked whether the city should issue urban renewal bonds for construction of The Music Man Square and hotel, skywalk and performing arts pavilion, not to exceed $14 million.
Both items required a 60 percent approval (or “yes” votes) to pass. According to unofficial results from the auditor's office, both passed with at least 74 percent of the overall vote.
The project had been in the works for years, and the city and different participants have spent the past several months hosting forums in order to educate people about its different parts, along with the funding structures corresponding with each project component.
The entire project is projected to cost about $38.77 million, and includes a hotel, ice arena/multipurpose center, new performing arts pavilion, conference center, skywalk, and a Music Man Square Museum.
Supporters of the project said it was needed for downtown development, and would bring younger people and families to Mason City.
One of those people is Loni Dirksen, an organizer for the "Mason City Says Yes" group — which was tasked with educating the people about the project and encouraging them to support it at the polls.
Dirksen was pleased about Tuesday's results, and said her group will continue to keep supporting the plan as it further develops.
"It's really showing me and our 'Mason City Says Yes' team that Mason City is ready to grow and prosper," she said by phone Tuesday night. "We have seen people come together and support it, and it seems it has really just united our community."
Those who were against it were skeptical of who was involved in the project, and the financing mechanisms used its components.
That included former city administrator Pat McGarvey, who created a website in opposition of the ballot measures.
One of McGarvey's issues with the project is that the ice arena would be rented, not owned, by the city.
"This will be the biggest, finest recreational facility in the history of the city and we're giving it away," he previously told the Globe Gazette.
With the ballot measures passed, the Iowa Economic Development Authority is poised to award up to $10 million in tax breaks for the project. It has already granted a preliminary award of $7.1 million.
That amount should be determined by December at the latest, according to IEDA officials.