Nearly five years ago, Mark and Kate Sainci opened up Elite Boxing Academy and Fitness Club in Mason City, as the pair followed a dream of becoming boxing and fighting instructors.
Now, that dream is getting a bit of an upgrade.
Construction has started on a brand new Elite Boxing facility, this one located at 109 1st Street in Mason City. The two story building will house a boxing academy on the ground floor, while the upper floor will have a full weight room, treadmills, 35 yards of turf field, and an incline running facility, called "Elite 4.0."
“The goal is for this to be the biggest, baddest gym in Mason City, hands down," Mark Sainci said.
Sainci, an ex-professional fighter, has trained several top-level boxers at his current location at 145 5th St. SW, including Junior Olympic champion Sophia Haroutunian.
“Trying to provide a boxing academy here is something different,” Sainci said. “Of course, it’s a boxing gym, and I’m a boxing coach, and an ex-professional fighter. Not only do we train fighters here, but we train people like fighters in fitness, without being fighters. What we’d like to do is offer something to Mason City that the big city offers to their kids."
The building, currently owned by Mason City real estate agent Brett Schoneman, is being sold to Sainci for the project. Schoneman received a $30,000 forgivable loan from Mason City as part of the “Downtown Revitalization Loan” Program, and also received a matching fund from Clear Lake Bank and Trust. The city believes that the project could increase the property value by 50 percent.
“I believe in those guys,” Schoneman said. “I don’t know s*** from Shinola about boxing. But I know that he has some very loyal followers, and I know that he’ll be successful.”
The loan, according to Schoneman, was given by the city in hopes that he and Sainci would spend even more money on the building. They plan to.
“We’re going to be well over $100,000,” Schoneman said. “Well over that.”
Sainci has a vision for the new building as a community for kids and parents alike. He wants it to be like the boxing gyms of bigger cities, where athletes can train, and regular people can come in to lift weights or run on the treadmills, or just come in to talk and hang out.
While there will be amenities like a juice bar, Sainci wants the new gym to maintain a gritty, Philadelphia-like boxing gym feel, and the building's exposed brick walls give the inside an atmosphere much like that of a Rocky movie.
At his current gym, Sainci says, he has a small but successful group of boxers that he trains, and he hopes to grow that side of the business once he moves operations to the new building. The plan is for the new gym to open by Jan. 1, though Sainci admits that that might be a tad optimistic, with all the work that still needs to be done to get it ready.
When he first opened in 2016, Sainci said that he wanted Elite Boxing to eventually be a nonprofit organization that gave the town’s kids an athletic outlet, much like the gyms in Lakeland, Florida, where he grew up.
Now, after five years and with several top-level boxers having made their way through his gym, Sainci is still not in it for the money. His ultimate goal remains the same.
“If you’ve ever heard that saying, 'If you build it, they will come?” Sainci said. “They come. If they don’t come, they don’t come. I’m not in it to make money. At the end of the day, if I can have that whole building, and have four or five fighters, and hopefully one day get a world champion, everything else will be history.”
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.