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The Music Man Square docent Ken Shadle walks through the empty streetscape of the 14-year-old building Oct. 8, 2016, in Mason City.

Those of us who love The Music Man Square are full of excitement and anticipation about the River City Renaissance Project. As an organization that is operated largely by volunteers, we've found that running The Music Man Square building, the boyhood home, and other properties is a specialized business. Actually, most of our volunteers are less interested in setting up tables and chairs and more interested in sharing Meredith Willson's legacy.

To quote a famous line from "The Music Man," "You gotta know the territory." Well, we do know the territory, and what we've realized is that marketing and facilitating events, meetings, and conferences is best left to professionals in this increasingly specialized and competitive field.

This project provides a wonderful opportunity for The Square.

• We'll be connected to a new 106-room hotel, and we've reached an agreement with the hotel developer (Gatehouse) to transfer many of the meeting and conference tasks to the hotel operator. This means that we'll receive revenue from all the events held in our building, but the hotel operator will be responsible for booking the engagements, set up/tear down, food and beverage service, cleaning, etc.

• Parts of the facility will be renovated, but it will retain its vintage charm. In fact, the developers are so impressed by the beauty of the Square, they can hardly wait to start promoting it to event planners across the country.

• The Meredith Willson Museum will be (very carefully) packed up and moved across Delaware Avenue to a new, highly visible building just north of the new hotel. It will be connected to The Music Man Square via a beautiful skywalk. We think this skywalk will serve as a great welcome to downtown Mason City, but it will also keep patrons safe, as traffic on Highway 65 north/Delaware Avenue increases with all the new activity. We also believe museum attendance will surge due to the better accessibility and visibility.

• The financial benefit of the project will put The Music Man Square on a firm path to sustainability. Including the Meredith Willson legacy in the River City Renaissance Project is a big reason Mason City's application was met with such enthusiasm by state officials. They share our belief in the importance of preserving our authentic and unique musical history.

• The Mason City Foundation will continue its mission to promote our musical heritage through increased programming, music lessons, and musical events. Our volunteers are looking forward to having more time to spend on these endeavors.

If you are a musician, a music lover, or simply someone who appreciates the mission of The Music Man Square, we hope you'll join us in making this vision a reality by voting yes (and yes) on the ballot questions regarding The River City Renaissance Project. We're excited about this business model and believe it provides the best opportunity for long-term sustainability for The Music Man Square complex. Thank you for your support and affirmative votes on Nov. 7.

Warren Torkelson is a volunteer at The Music Man Square and lives in Mason City.


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