Just north of the Kenai city limits in Salamatof sits an old building surrounded by a dirt parking lot. The building was bought by the nonprofit organization Alaska Children’s Institute for the Performing Arts four years ago.
Renovation of the facility started at that time and thanks to the efforts of donors and the shop students of Nikiski Middle-High School much-needed improvements have been made. The building is far from renovated, however.
Triumvirate Theatre, which operates under the umbrella of ACIPA, hosted a town meeting in the building Thursday evening to discuss a potential opportunity to continue the project. About two dozen Salamatof residents gathered in an unfinished lobby to hear about acquiring funds through the Alaska Revenue Sharing Program.
ACIPA Board President Joe Rizzo spoke at length about the project to community members, focusing on what the funds would mean for the project as well as completed phases of construction.
Last year, Nikiski shop students hung sheet rock and performed basic carpentry in the rear of the building, the location of the future Triumvirate Theatre.
“We went into a real boom period here when the Nikiski High School shop program decided to start a training program out here in the afternoons,” Rizzo said. “The result that you see here is really the result of a group of future carpenters and pipe fitters. We did that the first semester of last year and we’re back this year doing the same thing.”
Organizing a community meeting is part of the process of applying for the State Revenue Sharing payments.
If the unincorporated community of Salamatof receives financial assistance from the state, the $19,600 available will be used to hire contractors who will install a heating system and insulate the roof among other work Nikiski students can’t do.
The State Revenue Sharing Program is administered by the Department of Commerce. In order to be eligible for the program an unincorporated community must have either a nonprofit corporation or Native village council that will agree to receive and spend the payment. ACIPA is Salamatof’s only nonprofit.
Unincorporated communities are allowed to spend their payment on any public purpose.
The program represents a significant source of funding for many of Alaska’s smaller communities, but it has seen a 79-percent reduction in funding from 1985 to 2002. Studies show that 25 cities rely on the program for 20 percent of their operating budgets, according to the Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs.
Triumvirate already has a small theater in the Peninsula Center Mall of Soldotna. The 90-seat theater hosts plays and emergency fundraisers. Rizzo would like to have an improved theater for Salamatof.
“It’d be nice to have that facility out here,” he said. “For one thing we can seat a lot more people in this facility than we can in Soldotna. The other thing is it would be nice if we were centered on the North Road, because we don’t have any community theater presence.”
The unfinished facility began as a mechanical shop and signs its former purpose can still be spotted. Large garage doors where cars would once enter for service have been covered with plywood, and cement floors remain exposed.
The board members of Triumvirate bought the building for $60,000.
When it was purchased the front of the building was being held up with “wishful thinking.” The rear of the building is in better shape. This portion collapsed in 1994, and the owners were forced to reconstruct.
Rizzo estimates that $50,000 has been used for renovation since the purchase.
After showing residents pictures of the building process, Rizzo opened the gathering up to questions and comments. Residents in attendance were supportive of the project, and the only question raised had to do with when the building would be complete, which remains unclear.
Salamatof resident Tiffani Perry said the theater would be great for the community.
“I think the biggest benefit I see is that I have kids that enjoy theater, even being part of it and being in the plays,” she said. “That’s how I’m looking at it, getting my kids involved.”
Additional grants have funded the renovation of the building.
Triumvirate has received grants from multiple corporations, such as Tesoro and Chevron, and individual donations from the non-profit’s supporters.
The most recent grant, totaling $14,000, was received from the Rasmuson Foundation. It’s being used for a new septic system, which the building desperately needs.
After the presentation, residents were led to the rear of the building.Comments of approval were shared as the group entered the room. Rizzo gestured to where the stage, seating and sound booth will be located.
Board member Chris Jenness has helped with a small portion of the construction, and the experience has been instructive and exciting, he said. Most of all he is excited for the community’s youth.
“Our mission is aimed directly at kids. We can provide a creative outlet,” he said.
Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.