MOHALL — Every small-town area resident would like to see the successful revitalization of Main Street. As time marches on, parts of our rural towns slowly fade away. There are abandoned buildings on main street that are now empty and left only as the subject of stories told to the youngest generation. Stories about what life was like in town back then.
An energetic group of young professionals is taking this all to heart and doing something about it on main street in Mohall. Two local family men, Dustin Myaer and Chad Hassan recently founded the Mohall Lansford Sherwood Community Improvement Association (MLS CIA).
The organization created a volunteer 6-member board of directors, established a non-profit 501(c)(3) status, and purchased the old Midwest Telemark Inc. (MTI) building on Main Street in Mohall. They are currently renovating it to transform the space into a multi-use community facility that will provide entertainment activities for area folks of all ages.
When asked what the original spark for this idea was, Myaer said it came from his son’s birthday party. A few years ago, when their son Mason turned 4, Dustin and his wife planned a birthday party at the Splashdown Water Park in Minot’s Dakota Square Mall.
“I was just frustrated that I had to spend over $600 and drive all the way to Minot to have my kid’s birthday party,” Myaer said. Later, he even spent money on a commercial grade bouncy house and put it in his shop. He just became more and more frustrated that there was no quality youth activity space in his hometown. The idea for the MLS CIA and the community activities center was born.
The MTI building was the home of a very successful business back in its day. The late Steve Hett and Marvin Thom of Mohall launched MTI in 1990, and the business worked with area phone companies and cooperatives to sell their services. With call centers in Beulah, Bottineau, Fargo, Fessenden, Grafton, Langdon, Linton, Rugby, and Kenmare, as well as locations in Iowa, MTI at one time employed between 70 and 75 people at the Mohall site and 375 to 400 people company-wide.
Hett and Thom started MTI in the building that used to be the drug store on main street, and they eventually added on to the west to accommodate the growing business. The changing times and advancement of cellular technology forced MTI to close its doors for good in Mohall in early 2016.
The group taking on the large task of renovating the MTI building consists of many volunteers, but a core group of about 35 has been taking on most of the work. Myaer’s vision for the space includes an arcade, mini golf, and a golf and multiple-sport simulator for archery, trap and 30+ games other than just golf. The space will also have an event area, two hotel rooms, a lounge, four bowling lanes, and a nutrition and fitness center.
Myaer says the nutrition and fitness center will be unique, because that space will be leased to Emmy Handeland who already owns and operates a fitness center in Kenmare. Handeland is also on the MLS CIA Board of Directors.
The bowling lanes are something Myaer is particularly proud of. He and other volunteers have invested a lot of time and energy in acquiring 7 bowling lanes and accompanying equipment from Molco Lanes in Beulah and plans to install them in the space in Mohall. “We are upgrading all the equipment to modernize everything. We’re updating monitors and ball returns – with the 7 lanes we got – we plan to have 4 lanes installed with plenty of parts on hand for the future,” Myaer said.
As far as funding the project, they are using donations they have received, and they are constantly looking for grants and other ways to keep the facility operational for years down the road. One way they were able to raise money was by selling the existing furniture and other items left in the building when they bought it.
The MTI closure must have happened very fast, because there was a lot left behind, and Myaer and the company advertised it to the public as a free will donation event. Myaer said, “A contract came to an end in 2016, and MTI was suddenly closed. They left behind computers, chairs, headsets, pencils… everything. We made a deal where we were able to have all that stuff when we purchased the building.”
As of this week, the construction progress has been impressive. Myaer said there were about 845 manhours put into demolition with all sorts of volunteer help. Including area high school kids. Now, the arcade space is painted, the electrical work is almost complete, the appliances are purchased, and the space is starting to take shape. The group says it hopes to have the arcade and lounge up and running as soon as May 1 and everything else by September.
Anyone is welcome to donate or help with the project. There are also several different levels of sponsorships available ranging from $5,000 on up. A $75,000 donation will give you or your business the opportunity to sponsor a room in the center. For instance, Citizens State Bank of Mohall is an exclusive sponsor of the sports simulator room.
For anyone interested in donating, you can check out the Mohall Lansford Sherwood Community Improvement Association Facebook page. Also, keep checking in on the Facebook page for construction updates that include pictures and videos of the progress.