Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Now that we have built the fine, big new resort, waterparks and all the rest in Storm Lake, we can sit back, put our feet up and wait for all those new businesses and developments and jobs that were promised to come rolling on in, right?

And what color is the sky in your world?

Nothing comes automatically in the world of community development, and only on rare and lucky instances does it come easy.

A while back, we showed you a tantilizing plan to turn the whole highway frontage across from King's Pointe into something of an amusement park. It would have been an exception - it fell out of the blue right into our laps.

We know we need more things for visitors and locals alike to do in Storm Lake, and this would have answered some of those needs with carnival rides, mini golf course, roller rink, laser tag arena, arcade, shops, restaurants, an upper level motel and so on.

Sadly, that plan went away almost as soon as it was drawn up, though the planner did turn it over to the city, where it would be available for another developer to pick up.

We can't wait or plan for well-heeled outsiders to come meet our needs for us, though - nor does everything we do have to be of multi-million-dollar scope.

There's a lot of opportunity here for the little guy, and the community needs to be incubating him. We've been pouring money into the local development group for years hoping to land new industry, even building a spec building, which has been the thing to do for the era. But now, our efforts should turn away from smokestacks and into fostering entertainment and lifestyle business.

A good place to start would be a communitywide survey to see what people really want and would use, which could be paired with a survey of visitors taken at our resort and inns.

A couple of hundred kids and parents have already petitioned to express the need for a skate park. But maybe we don't need a huge, complicated city project that takes another decade to achieve.

Some johnny-on-the-spot could build a ramp, half-pipe and so on, and charge a couple bucks admission. It still beats driving to Spencer. Or maybe admission could be free and money made on a snack stand, t-shirts, board/helmet rentals.

If we can't find anyone to take such a thing on, let the kids collect some money, the city provide a spot, and have some volunteer construction days to build something basic that's better than the streets and parking lots, so we can stop chasing those kids from place to place.

What else do we need? I can sure picture a mini golf course down in the AWAYSIS area. One was tried and almost immediately abandoned some years ago by an Iowa entrepreneur, but that was in the wrong time and the wrong spot. A nice cart track is doable. An upscale area of at least seasonal shops, maybe something themed, like a mercado. An antique mall or one of those growing-in-popularity "garage sale parks." So what if it is a little trashy - everything doesn't have to be top hat and tails.

A few restaurant options would be nice - our online poll this week turned up a storm of people wanting some new eating choices in the city. Perhaps an outdoor coffee-shop?

Decent sand volleyball courts would be cool - and Community Ed could set up a huge tournament with all different age groups and NW Iowa towns competing for bragging rights.

It would be cool for the bike shop or someone else to set up a seasonal bike/skates rental kiosk outside of King's Pointe, to give our visitors something fun and healthy to do.

Back in the '90s, somebody tried a dockside business on Lakeshore Drive, renting lake pedal crafts, kayaks and such. The 100-years flood put the kibosh on that. Well, now is the time.

Music - good gosh, we need music. And local bands - from classical to head-banging, need a place to be heard. The idea of the chamber purchasing a portable stage for the new Great Lawn may be on hold, so why not have local bands playing each weekend, and charge 50 cents a head to help pay off the costs of the equipment?

What else? Wine tastings and cooking classes are hot now. A chess tournament. Motorcyle shows. Art in the park brings a sense of culture. Antique boat shows, or wacky homemade vessel competitions. What ever happened to our Storm Lake Triathalon? - we're set up ideally for that kind of event.

The theater company talked years ago about a modern multi-plex for Storm Lake, hoping for some community involvement that didn't materialize. Now seems like a ripe time to get it going.

Maybe, just maybe, some new, deep-pocketed developer will wander in, do all the work of determining what the town wants and needs, and transform our whole AWAYSIS end of town into some entertainment wonderland without us having to do a thing on our own behalf.

I wouldn't hold my breath, though.

In the absense of a corporate sugar daddy, we will have to depend on the little guy and probably work from within. Guys who could come in with an idea for something fun, get a little help from the city and SLADC, and grow a business supplying the entertainment we need. Help for existing local businesspeople to expand into new ideas we need. We have to encourage it.

Everything doesn't have to be fancy, or take millions of dollars and years of jabbering to get started.

But it does take direction. AWAYSIS would never have have been anything but pretty architect's drawings without it.

The time is right to determine what we need, what we want our community to be and have in the future. And then create an atmosphere where the little guy can play a role in getting us there