Wednesday, May 18 2022

by Marianne Gasaway

Clear Lake City Council members said they would consider a request for a $100,000 contribution to a Northern Iowa Event Center fundraising campaign, which would allow the group to expand and expand. improve its facilities with the aim of hosting year-round horse and cattle shows.

North Iowa Fair Board member Don O’Connor met with Board members last week to discuss the Board’s vision and action plan to grow from a seven-month facility to 12.

“It’s not a chimera. We see the potential,” O’Connor told the Council. “They say, ‘build it and they will come.’ We believe it.

O’Connor explained that horse shows are the event center‘s primary source of revenue and create a significant economic impact for north-central Iowa.

“These people stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, shop and entertain themselves. They don’t show their horses the whole time they’re here. There’s a lot of dead time when they’re not showing horses, so they’re spending money elsewhere.

According to a study by Visit Mason City, between May and October 2021, there were 18 horse racing events, not including cattle fights and a few other shows, which created an economic impact of $4.1 million for the region.

Becoming a 12-month install will increase that number, O’Connor said. But to become a year-round facility, an enclosed and heated warm-up arena, a heated barn with stalls, and enclosed walkways that connect the areas are required.

“The weather really dictates what happens in our arena,” he said.

O’Connor pointed out that equestrian facilities in Iowa Falls, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Des Moines all have closed areas for shows, while Mason City does not.

“We want to bring northern Iowa back to the premier equestrian facility that we once were. When this was built many years ago it was state of the art. There was no one else who had anything more beautiful. Unfortunately, we just didn’t follow through.

A $1.5 million fundraising campaign is set to launch this winter, according to O’Connor. As a forerunner, the fair board made presentations to Cerro Gordo County Supervisors and Mason City and Clear Lake City Councils. Their support will go a long way in inspiring others to give, O’Connor said. So far, the county has pledged $200,000 to the effort and Mason City $100,000. Horsemen of Iowa, an equestrian organization in northern Iowa, will donate $50,000, he said, leaving $300,000 still needed for the first phase.

The first phase of the project will include an enclosed and heated warm-up arena at the western end of the current arena. Completion of this phase is early 2023. The second phase, a 60-stall enclosed area that will be attached to the current Curran Barn, will follow in 2024.

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