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New Roof Garden Ballroom part of $12M renovation project at Arnolds Park

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ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa  | Arnolds Park officials on Tuesday announced $12 million in upgrades to the historic amusement park on the shores of West Lake Okoboji.

The project includes construction of a new Roof Garden Ballroom closely resembling the historic two-story ballroom. Plans also include restoration of The Majestic Pavilion, expansion of the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum, and a boardwalk along the lakefront.

An anonymous group of donors has already pledged $6 million to the Restore the Park fund raising campaign. An additional $2 million in funds have been raised through contributions from the Historic Parks Inc. and The Park Foundation boards, Historic Parks Inc. CEO Charley Whittenburg said. All of the board members have contributed.

A committee composed of current and former board members will spearhead the remaining fundraising, he added.

The new additions and renovations will be completed in three phases:

Phase I began last fall with The Arnolds Park Foundation supplying funds for planning and infrastructure such as updated electric, sewer, and fiber optic lines to prepare the property for the upcoming improvements. Phase I also will include additional parking along Highway 71, and new restrooms inside the amusement park, Whittenburg said.

Work has started on the park's southwest corner, with the demolition of some housing and a former retail space owned by the park. The new restrooms also are under construction, and are slated to be finished in time for the park's 2017 season, which begins May 20.

Phase II is set to begin this fall with the expansion of The Maritime Museum and renovation of The Majestic Pavilion, which will include new flooring for the former skating rink and new administration facilities. The second phase also includes renovation of The Preservation Plaza stage and the addition of fiber optic lines throughout the park for ride operations.

The museum expansion will significantly increase its size, providing green room facilities for guest bands and offices for the Okoboji Foundation, the Iowa Great Lakes Chamber of Commerce, and Okoboji Tourism, as well as a new home for The Iowa Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

Iowa Rock 'n' Roll Music Association founder and board member John Senn said he is looking forward to working out the details for the Hall of Fame museum, which should more than double the museum's 1,080 square feet of space.

"As a statewide organization, we're looking forward to a long-term situation that will help us preserve the legacy of music throughout the region," Senn said.

Phase III includes construction of the new Roof Garden. The original ballroom, which played host to well-known Big Bands and Rock 'N Roll acts in its heyday, was demolished in 1987 as part of the renovation of the 128-year-old amusement park. The building currently known as the Roof Garden, an open-air facility available for special events, was built at that time adjacent to the park.

Whittenburg said the new Roof Garden will have the look and feel of the original ballroom, with updated amenities to make the space more functional.

"In addition, there will be many things upgraded to bring us into the 21st century, and poise us for sustainability for future generations," he said. "The park is the epicenter of our community and remains the heart of Okoboji. It is the iconic crown jewel of Iowa."


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