Downtown Mason City.

Voters in Mason City soon will decide the fate of a proposed $39 million project the includes construction of a new ice arena and a new hotel with an adjacent museum to honor a famous musician.

Meredith Willson — who wrote “The Music Man” — was born in Mason City in 1902. The “River City Renaissance Project” calls for turning “Music Man Square” in Mason City into a convention center, with a new Meredith Willson Museum next to the new hotel.

Jon Prebeck is with the committee urging Mason City voters to approve two proposals related to the project.
“You’re taking a museum, in my opinion, that today is kind of hidden in that building, if you will, and now you’re putting it front and center, right next to this beautiful new hotel,” he says. “You’ve got it right in front of the mall there. You’re highlighting that achievement of Meredith Willson more so than we could have ever hoped for.”

As proposed, the new convention center could hold up to 600 people. Loni Dirksen of the “Mason City Says Yes” committee says since the Clarion Inn closed a few years ago, no other facility in Mason City can host that many people for a single event.

“Mason City has lost $4 million in tourism dollars because we don’t have the space to have events like that anymore,” she says, “and the demand is here and we just don’t have the space for it — yet.”

The project’s fate rests on voter approval of extending a long-term lease with Southbridge Mall, along with approval of a $14 million bond issue. If voters approve on November 7, Dirksen says construction of the hotel would begin before the end of the year.

“This is a really important issue for the city of Mason City and we just thought it’s important for everyone to be able to get their voice heard and put in their vote on whether they really want this project or not,” Dirksen says.

Mason City officials say up to $10 million in state support could be secured if voters approve the local money

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)