Preservation Plaza arch Okoboji

The unveiling of a new lighted arch at the Preservation Plaza portion of Arnolds Park took place on July 2, as shown in a contributed photo from the Imagine Iowa Great Lakes Committee. Content Exchange

ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa -- A prominent segment for recreational fun available in the Okoboji area has been renovated, as Preservation Plaza now has a promenade arch that changes colors.

An unveiling of the Arnolds Park Promenade at Preservation Park was held just before the Fourth of July holiday in the spot near the Arnolds Park amusement park, on the south edge of West Lake Okoboji. The remodeled area will likely draw crowds this weekend, when free outdoor concerts at what people typically call the greenspace area of Preservation Plaza take place Friday with Lifelight Festival and Saturday with Absolute Leppard, a Def Leppard tribute band.

"It is just a wow factor...This is an awesome addition to the promenade that gives it a little something extra," Jill Harms, who serves as board president of  Historic Arnolds Park Inc., and is also on the Imagine Iowa Great Lakes Committee, said Wednesday.

Harms noted lights in the arches can dim, brighten and change colors after dark. Beyond the arch, over the last few weeks a sidewalk through the greenspace area was widened and sculpted, with numerous adjacent landscape changes as well, so it has the feel of a nature trail, she said.

Harms said a few people spoke against losing some of the greenspace area for the arch and sidewalk, but she said 90 percent of people are "just over the moon excited" for the changes.

"The rebirth of that area is a big thing for Northwest Iowa," said Matt Richter, a son of the Richter brothers who spawned the fictional University of Okoboji four decades ago.

The change is among a series of improvements envisioned by the Imagine Iowa Great Lakes Committee in upcoming months. Harms said most of those will be directed to the U.S. Highway 71 corridor that bisects the Iowa Great Lakes region.

The Preservation Park arch, while next to the Arnolds Park complex, is not part of the $19 million endeavor underway on adjacent areas under the Preserve The Park initiative.

In May 2017, Arnolds Park officials announced a $12 million project to renovate the Majestic Pavilion, renovate a ticketing building and south gate, expand the Maritime Museum, add another parking lot and create additional space for the Iowa Rock 'n Roll Museum. The project also includes a new Roof Garden, which is almost done.

In late 2017 the park project got a bump in its fundraising from a state Community Attraction and Tourism grant of $935,000.  Additionally, by that time an anonymous group of donors had already pledged $6 million for a fundraising campaign, dubbed Restore The Park.

Many Restore The Park pieces have since been put in place, including the parking and ticket booth.

The miniature train that circles the amusement park's grounds has been refurbished. Guests can also use a new ride, the Wild Mouse, a small coaster geared to younger park visitors.

Next month, the third phase of the $19 million campaign will see the finish of a replica of the historic Roof Garden Ballroom, which had been a staple at the lakefront until 1987. 

The new ballroom will evoke the look of its original version, which opened in 1923 for a run of six decades for hundreds of live concerts.

The Roof Garden is expected to open in early August. Classic rock group Tommy James and the Shondells will perform on Aug. 2, followed by Billy and the Downliners on Aug. 7, the Glenn Miller Orchestra on Aug. 9, The Romantics on Aug. 28 and Head East on Aug. 30. All those groups had performed at the original Roof Garden.

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