On the corner of Central Avenue and 2nd Street in Le Mars, Iowa sits a brick building with a lot of history within its walls.
This building not only has a lot of history in Downtown Le Mars. It has a lot of history in my family.Todd Anderson practically grew up at 128 Central Avenue Southeast on the main street in the Ice Cream Capital of the World.
"The business has been in the family for 52 years," he told me.
That business is the Le Mars Beauty College. which his father bought and then Todd later attended and inherited.
Find Out the Top 5 Habits of Successful CFOs HereOracle NetSuiteDownload"This business is more than a business," Todd's wife Stacie said of the college located within the historic structure. "It's a family, a much-extended family with the college."
Now, this chapter is coming to a close for the Andersons as they embark on a new chapter.
It's bittersweet. Definitely has its hard moments.While they look ahead to what's next, they can't help but look back at the stories formed inside the walls of this former Masonic Lodge, built in 1923.
"Every time we have somebody come through here they are like, 'gosh it has really good bones'," Stacie said. She remembers the first time Todd gave her a tour of the structure. "It's built really well. It's got beautiful detail in the brick on the exterior, beautiful high ceilings. It's on the historic registry. That is something that we worked for with the help of some amazing people in Le Mars."
The Andersons did some renovations a few years ago after receiving a Main Street Iowa Challenge Grant. This allowed them to install new windows and make overall improvements, but many classic masonic features remain.
"Things like tile on some of the original bathroom floors, the doors and the woodwork," Stacie said. "All of these things that you can't find just anywhere."
The first floor still houses the Le Mars Beauty College where customers and students can't help but marvel at the classic beauty of the lodge. Up the stairs is another piece of history. Now home to Central Dance Academy, the dancers of today find themselves in the same room as the local masons, generations ago.
"When you think of it from that perspective and the length of time it's been here and what's happened in a century, from the very first town meetings being held here," the Anderson's said. "There's so much history. If only these walls could talk."
For Todd and Stacie, 128 Central Avenue Southeast, and those who have walked through its front doors over the last 52 years, will always be part of the family.
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"2020 was an out-of-the-ordinary year."
Sioux City Police have released the crime statistics for the last year and just by looking at the data, there were some startling numbers.
One of the biggest increases between 2019 and 2020 was in murder and manslaughter, with six last year and only two the year prior. That's up 200%. But looking at property crime you see a drop; Burglary was down 25% and theft was down 16% compared to 2019. Overall there was a 15% decrease in property crimes.
"We try the best we can try to analyze our crime rates and see what they are related to, but there are so many factors that influence crime."
Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller walked me through the latest data.
"We can certainly make some guesses as to why this past year was different. People being home more may have influenced that, but at the same time, those are just speculation."
One of the harshest numbers is the 200% increase in murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, and the department says these violent crimes are a top priority for them.
"Unfortunately, most violent crime can't be predicted. So, the best thing that we can do as a department is identifying people in our community that show a propensity for violence and take a major offender approach is what we call, to locate those people who are involved in guns and drugs and escalating violence and try to get them before any of our community members are adversely affected by it," Chief Mueller said. "A lot of these we may never know how deep these issues go. I mean, are they drug-related, do they involve firearms? Certainly, drugs and firearms tend to go together."
But Chief Mueller says these numbers they released are only one piece of the puzzle.
"Looking at percentages kind of gives an inaccurate picture," Chief Mueller said as we discussed the data. "I think you have to look at the raw numbers themselves and these are obviously preliminary numbers, but they do give us an idea of what happened in Sioux City and certainly, violent crime was on the rise, but that is a nationwide trend."
Overall crime in Sioux City was down 10% from the year before and as a department, they use this data to see where they need to adjust.
"It starts with looking at the data and seeing where our issues are. Clearly, with property crimes going down, that's a positive, but crime has ebbs and flows, it has ups and downs," Mueller said. "The Sioux City crime rate has been relatively steady. In fact, over the past five years, it's a relatively steady rate."
The department uses this data to help find changes in policing for the new year.
"As hard as the police department works, we only have so much of an impact on the crime rate. That doesn't mean that we aren't going to try and impact it as much as possible, but there are so many other factors that come into it." These crime statistics only paint a part of the overall picture. Chief Mueller says there is another key element that played a big part in 2020: personal connections.
"One of the things that we lost in 2020 because of the lack of personal contact is going out in the community and help to make our citizens a hard target for crime," he said about last year, "I mean, crime prevention initiatives. There was less interaction with the people that we serve and part of that interaction is showing them how to avoid being a victim of crime."
Because of COVID-19, officers weren't able to interact with the community they serve as they had in years past which plays a big part in crime prevention.
"When you lose those connections, those are something that we are really going to try and rebuild as we get out of the pandemic."
These officers that serve the Sioux City community, are part of it, too, living and working alongside the people they vow to serve and protect.
"We are the citizens. The police officers live in this community, they are part of the community and when you can't spend as much time getting that positive interaction that we would do with community policing efforts, you kind of lose touch and that is something that we all miss."
A big part of crime prevention is those relationships with the people that live and work in Sioux City, and fixing that broken link created by the pandemic in 2020 is a top priority.
"For us as a department, part of our initiative going forward is going to be to reengage with the people that we serve, to assure them that we are doing everything that we can to suppress and prevent crime and respond to crime," Mueller said. "But also, just build up those personal relationships because I think for all of us, not just the police and the community, those personal relationships have taken a hit with the pandemic."
"Any crime prevention or suppression efforts that we make are meaningless unless we have our citizens working with us. So, when we are all working together on this, we make real progress."
Chief Mueller says Sioux City actually has a pretty low crime rate "and that speaks more about the composition of our community, the people we have in our community and what great people we have in this community," he said. "But that doesn't mean we can't look at this information and see where we could be better using the resources that we do have to prevent, combat crime and respond to crime."
For the new year, the department hopes to get back to community policing and rebuilding those relationships with the citizens they serve.
I live in this community. I live in Sioux City, I've always lived in Sioux City."This is a great and safe community," Mueller said as a message to Sioux Citians. "What I would say is, don't be deterred by the numbers. Sioux City is an incredible community. We've been making a lot of great strides."
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"It's been so gratifying for me to see us start to transform Siouxland athletics, which has been our goal from the beginning."
When Hobby Lobby moved from its Singing Hills storefront in 2018, many thought the building would remain empty, but then a group of local sports dads had an idea. In late 2019, The Arena Sports Academy officially opened.
Mike Hesse and Dustin Cooper had big plans for the new youth sports facility's first year.
"To say that the last year has been a challenge is the understatement of the year. We opened in December of 2019 and about 3 months later had to shut her down," Cooper recalled. "We got to open up and then we had to shut back down, and then we got to open up kind of."
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the Siouxland area in March and most places, including The Arena, were closed. But during that time, Hesse and Cooper and the Arena team made plans, trying to find a way that would keep hundreds of athletes safe and healthy while still letting them practice, play, and hone in their skills.
"We figured out ways where we could get more kids in the building but still abide by all of the mandates put in by the governor. We were able to grow during that time which helped me grow my role as well in the building," James Maher said. He wears many hats at The Arena and helping young athletes on and off the court is one of them.
"There's more to sports than just winning and competing, he said, "and that is one thing that we like to see happen in this building."
"We want to be complementary and cohesive with what they are trying to do at their schools so that we can give the kids the best."
Brandon Snyder is a former Iowa Hawkeye football and West Lyon stand-out and he is bringing his experience to young athletes at The Arena.
"They have a much more accessible opportunity to attain high-level development," Snyder said. He is the Director of Performance and works directly with the athletes and their skills development.
"We want to be complementary and cohesive with what they are trying to do at their schools so that we can give the kids the best." And this isn't just for high school athletes, but younger kids as well. Snyder and the team work with athletes at all levels, developing skills they will need as they grow.
"If we can start that process in 5th or 6th grade they get a huge jump and that is what you are seeing in different communities in Omaha and Sioux Falls, where the basketball is really good and the athletes are really strong," Maher said. "It's all because of that expedited process of growing the body and growing your talent."
Cali Cooper is part of the Arena Dance Academy and has seen her skillset as a competitive dancer grow significantly since The Arena Dance Academy began.
I grew up in Arizona and there it is high level and crazy. And then moving back here it slowed and I didn't have it as much and I wasn't improving as much as I wanted to," the freshman dancer said. "I've felt like in just a year, I've gotten 10 times better than I was and usually that is not how it is."
The Dance Academy qualified for Nationals in 2020, but because of COVID-19, competing for the title wasn't possible. Now this year, that is the focus.
"That's our goal, to get there again and is what we are preparing for," Cali said. "We are practicing every day to get there and that is one of our big goals and my big goal is to do really well at Nationals."
Along with a Dance Academy, The Arena also offers, volleyball, basketball, wrestling and more. There is even a fitness program for adults, too. All of these programs, and the ones that will be announced soon, are geared toward all Siouxland athletes.
Hesse and Cooper each have kids that participate in Arena activities, and traveling to sports tournaments with their kids is how The Arena came to be.
"What can we do to allow Siouxland to catch back up with Omaha, Sioux Falls, Des Moines, the eastern half of the state?" Hesse said. He remembers taking notes of all of the sports facilities he visited before creating The Arena and using his favorite pieces of each to make this new Siouxland sports facility a reality.
"We are going to transform Siouxland sports. We are going to be able to compete at that next level," Hesse said. The investment is there to make sure that regardless of the business climate, we are here for the Siouxland area. We really try to emphasize two things," Cooper said of the academy. "One is affordable programming that does not sacrifice quality but also top-flight, not only instructors but human beings, and that is what we have done in our directors and staff."
"Kids can really start to find this as a home in Sioux City where they can come together and we can grow and form the future athletes and people of our community," Maher said.
The Arena Sports Academy is more than just a sports facility, they also work with their neighbors in the community to help other local businesses.
"We've really focused on two things. Number one, how can we be more efficient in what it is that we are doing," Cooper said. "Not only that, what new offerings can we bring? Not only by way of programming for individual kids, which is very important to us."
"But it's been our mission to our community. We want people pumping our gas, staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants. The Arena being able to play a little part in helping to grow our Siouxland community just means so much to me," Hesse said as the owner of The Arena, "and I know it means a lot to other local businesses in the area."
2020 was a difficult year for many, but the team behind The Arena says they are here to stay.
"A lot of questions that we have gotten over the course of the last 6 months is, are you guys going to be okay through the course of the pandemic and my answer is always the same," Cooper said.
"Yes, we are going to be okay. Yes, we are still here. Because of the individuals that we have, because of what we have The Arena will not fail. It won't be allowed to fail," Hesse echoed. "Even though the business climate wasn't great in 2020 to have a sporting facility, that doesn't matter. The Arena is here for the Siouxland community for the long haul."
"We really want people to be proud of us and we want to be the tip of the sword for the community when it comes to bringing sports events to our town," Cooper said.
For the players, parents, coaches and staff, The Arena has become a home with a dream to make a difference in Siouxland.
"It's all family here, from top to bottom, it's all family," said 8th-grade basketball player Caden Van Regenmorter" Here everybody helps each other out. The coaches on the bench help each other out. Other places you are by yourself. But here you are all family."
Hesse and Cooper are proud of the team they have assembled at The Arena, from directors to coaches and everyone in between.
"You have great people leading the charge and able to help the Siouxland youth," Hesse said, "I see nothing but great things for the future for all of our kids here in town and our businesses and hotels going forward."
Cooper couldn't agree more, "if we had to have the opportunity to prove ourselves that we are here and we are here to stay, I think making it to the end of a pandemic is probably a good example of that."
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Web articles from my time at Siouxland News.