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Mason City welcomes new arena to changing downtown

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MASON CITY, Iowa (KTTC) - Mason City's downtown is slowly getting a makeover thanks to a $38 million project called the River City Renaissance Project. A main piece of that project celebrated its grand opening Friday morning at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The new multi-purpose arena is a $12 million project that fills the place of the vacant JC Penny at Southbridge Mall. While the project saved money by renovating and repurposing an existing structure, many say it still manages to be impressive.

"I've been to every arena in Iowa and there isn't any arena that could compare to this so we're way ahead of everybody," said Mason City Mohawks high school coach John Lloyd.

The venue will be home to the North Iowa Bull as well as North Iowa Figure Skating Club and the local youth and high school teams. They are also able to accommodate concerts, trade shows, basketball, volleyball, wrestling and more events they hope to attract in the future.

The new arena replaces the North Iowa Ice Arena, affectionately known as 'The Barn'.

"It works fine right now but the maintenance on it gets expensive every year," said Lloyd.

But with a bigger venue, comes bigger expectations.

"I hope it will give us some motivation to play harder and show all the people that put the work into this building that we can prove that we can play in here," said Mason City Mohawks hockey player Erik McHenry.

Hockey enthusiasts also hope it will help the sport grow in north Iowa.

"It means a great deal. For one thing, we hope it attracts more kids to play hockey," Lloyd said. "We need to build up our youth tournaments which they've already started doing."

"It's a sport not many people play but people really like to watch," McHenry said. "I think as more people come with the arena, it will begin to grow."

While some may have fond memories of 'The Barn', the Mason City Mohawks are excited about taking to the new ice.

"Coming in this new arena will be different but it will be a good change," said McHenry.

"They've done a fantastic job," said Lloyd.

While the arena may not be game day ready just yet, the community is certainly excited. Up next for the River City Renaissance Project is planning other additions including a hotel and conference center, skywalk, performing arts pavilion and changes to the Music Man Square Museum.

Alex Tejada

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