A Renaissance in the Making
The Mason City Arena is bringing new energy to downtown
Brian Pauly can sum up in one word what the brand-new Mason City Arena brings to the downtown: Energy.
As the city’s Recreation Superintendent, Brian helps manage use of this year-round facility that turned an empty department store at Southbridge Mall into the biggest bright spot in North Iowa.
The multi-purpose arena opened in December 2019, becoming the new home for North Iowa Bulls Hockey, Mason City Youth Hockey, and the North Iowa Figure Skating Club during the winter. When spring comes, the ice disappears and the arena becomes a hub for concerts, sports events, theater, trade shows, and community events.
“It creates energy,” says Brian, Mason City’s Recreation Superintendent. “I’ve heard that the Bulls have more than doubled typical attendance, and the Learn To Skate program has gone through the roof. I’ve seen the energy trickle over into the mall. People stop in and tell us they’re just amazed how different it feels.”
The downtown mall, which had been languishing, recently gained new tenants on the strength of the arena’s promise: The Sports Page bar and restaurant, River City Mini-Golf, Country Axe bar and axe-throwing, Chris’ Kettle Korn, and more. DealerBuilt, a software company for car dealerships, moved its Mason City headquarters into a former storefront.
The Mason City Arena offers fixed seating for 2,058 watching a hockey game, but Brian says that number can climb to 3,400, on up to 4,200, during the summer season, when chairs can be set up on the floor around a stage. Large-screen displays add excitement and close-up viewing for live events or screening for projections. There are smaller rooms available for meetings.
It takes cooperation to coordinate a schedule that’s filling up fast. “It’s all about communication,” Brian says. “We’ve formed some great partnerships. We’ve got a fantastic relationship with the Mason City Bulls. We recently did a non-school-day activity on the ice with kids and the Bulls.”
The arena is the latest development in activities for the Recreation Department, now located in Southbridge Mall next to the arena. Eight staff members and more than 150 seasonal employees oversee the Highland Park Golf Course, the Mason City Family Aquatic Center, and recreational opportunities like campgrounds, youth and adult sports, and child care. “Daily participation in our activities over a year has consistently been around 326,000 people,” he says, counting a person attending two programs in one day as two event-people.
After living here nine years, Brian can really see the excitement building in Mason City. “I’m not from this area. When I moved here, well, it wasn’t a nice downtown. Since then, they finished the Historic Park Inn Hotel, and there are more eating places, the breweries, and the arena. Talon Development apartments now are being built by the mall. There is energy there now, and it’s cleaned up. The community partnerships are really developing to take us to the next level. It’s just a fun place to be, to work, and to recreate.”
There’s something else Brian finds interesting.
“The other thing that’s remarkable is that other towns are actually looking to see what Mason City is all about. They’re thinking, ‘We want to be like Mason City.’ We’re just seeing all the fruition of all that hard work.”
For information about upcoming events and booking opportunities, contact the Mason City Recreation Department at 641-421-3673.