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Arnold’s Park adds housing for international workers

An unfinished dormitory building undergoes construction on snowy ground.
Courtesy of Arnold's Park Amusement Park Facebook
The dorms are set to be complete by the park's opening in May of next year.

Arnold’s Park is constructing dorms for the large population of international students that work at the amusement park each year.

For the last 15 years, the northwest Iowa amusement park has employed students participating in the J-1 summer work exchange program. They come from all over the world, traveling from countries like Bulgaria, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic to spend a summer in Iowa.

Starting next year, more than 100 of the park’s seasonal workers will be housed across the street from the facility. CEO Jon Pausley said the dorms will be a way to keep the international workers safe and to ease transportation worries.

“Knowing that they're the backbone of our workforce during the summertime, we'd like to have them close by and in a safe place,” Paisley said. “And then give them a great experience while they're with us.”

In the past, Pausley said seasonal employees have had to bike to their rentals or hotels located farther away from the park, oftentimes at night. He said the park wants to build something more sustainable for international workers who might not have access to cars.

“To just make sure that they're not learning the roadways here in a new place late at night or early in the morning on a bicycle,” he said.

“They provide a lot of great culture and learning and interaction with different people from around the globe and bringing it here to northwest Iowa."
Jon Pausley, CEO of Arnold's Park

In addition, Pausley said the area needs more affordable housing units for staff in general. He said he hopes the new units will help attract workers, whether from abroad or within the U.S.

The three-story dorms will be completed in time for the park’s opening in mid-May and house around 115 workers. It will be available to all full-time seasonal workers at the amusement park.

Pausley said he’s proud of how much the J1 visa program and the H2B program, another program that allows people to work temporarily within the U.S., has grown since its initial years.

At first, the park saw around 15 international workers, but now they make up an integral part of the workforce, Pausley said.

“They provide a lot of great culture and learning and interaction with different people from around the globe and bringing it here to northwest Iowa,” he said. “And I think that's just a beautiful thing.”

Kendall was Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA until Jan. 20, 2023.